Ryan Hartman

Ryan Hartman itching to get first crack at Blackhawks since trade


Ryan Hartman itching to get first crack at Blackhawks since trade

NASHVILLE — After getting traded by the Blackhawks nine months ago, Ryan Hartman will finally get a crack at his former team when the Nashville Predators welcome Chicago to town on Saturday night. It's one he's been looking forward to for quite some time now.

"I was telling some of the guys that this game has been circled for a while on my calendar," said Hartman, who was traded for Victor Ejdsell and a first-round pick in 2018 that turned out to be defenseman Nicolas Beaudin. "I'm excited to get started. Two teams that have lost two in a row now that are looking to play harder, so should be a good game."

Hartman appeared in 21 regular-season games for the Predators last season and nine postseason contests, where he scored two goals and added an assist. While his ice time is similar to what he was getting in Chicago, he's contributing more on the scoresheet in his first full season with Nashville.

He has seven goals, which ranks third on the team, and has been promoted to a top-six role with Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve. And that's good news for Hartman, who bet on himself by signing a one-year, $875,000 contract with the Predators in hopes of earning a longer-term deal this upcoming summer as a restricted free agent.

"My game is the same," Hartman said. "Playing hard, our team's doing well, top of the standings. Each and every night competing, it's fun hockey. I got to play 20 games last year in a playoff push and got to come here throughout a training camp and to start the season off here has been good."

Despite being in Nashville, it's hard not to notice the changes happening in Chicago as a former player.

His close friend Vinnie Hinostroza was dealt to Arizona in the offseason as part of a package to clear Marian Hossa's contract from the books. The Blackhawks fired Joel Quenneville and hired 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton to be their next head coach. Nick Schmaltz was traded for two former first-round picks in Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome. Henri Jokiharju has emerged as a top-pairing defenseman. 

The turnover is evident since Hartman's days with the Blackhawks. But none bigger than Quenneville.

"Growing up a fan of the Hawks and watching Quenneville as a kid who coached the team, you obviously see it," Hartman said. "My family let me know when it first happened. You see those things, but so does everyone else around the league."

Now, Hartman's focus has shifted to doing whatever he can to help the Predators win a Stanley Cup after they came up short a season ago. Having the opportunity to be with the team from Day 1 at training camp also helps because going through the ups and the downs as a group is part of what makes the journey of working towards a championship memorable.

That's what Hartman is hoping to accomplish with the Predators.

"We got a good team here," he said. "We've been atop the standings for most of the season, we got everyone's best efforts for the most part, but playing here it's great. The home ice advantage here is awesome, the fans are loud, they really get this place rocking. It's a good atmosphere."

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Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators


Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

Ryan Hartman has been through this before. Back in December of 2012, he sustained a torn labrum in his right shoulder but played through it because the Plymouth Whalers were in the middle of a playoff run. He waited until the offseason to have it surgically repaired and was cleared for contact just in time for him to attend his first training camp with the Blackhawks in September of 2013.

This time was a little different though.

Hartman had been acquired by the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline in exchange for prospect Victor Ejdsell and a 2018 first- and fourth-round pick — a hefty price to pay — in hopes of serving as an additional spark plug for a Predators team looking to load up for a second consecutive Stanley Cup run.

So when Hartman was brushed by Nathan MacKinnon along the boards, lost his footing and fell on his left shoulder late in Game 4 of the first round against Colorado, he immediately knew something was up.

"It didn't feel great at all," said Hartman, who went straight to the dressing room and had team doctors pop it back into place. "I finished the game and was able to finish playoffs in like a modified sling, which sucked to play with, but it's playoffs. It's one of those things where there are many guys playing through injuries and I was one of them."

Hartman, who's been rehabbing and training in Chicago, received the green light to fully participate in hockey-related drills last Monday but was advised to delay his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut for one more week just to err on the side of caution. On Wednesday, he got back into a game-type setting and "felt good" after 50 minutes of action going up against former teammates Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.

Now he can fully focus on this upcoming season and amp up his on-ice training to a level he couldn't get to while recovering from shoulder surgery with training camp a month away.

Hartman was a restricted free agent this summer and recently re-signed with the Predators on a one-year deal worth $875,000. Clearly, he's betting on himself to bounce back to his rookie year form when he scored 19 goals and cash out on a larger paycheck down the line, even though he had multiple longer-term offers from the Predators.

"Yeah we talked, [GM David Poile] wants me to be there, I want to be there, we have a good relationship," Hartman said. "Obviously, he gave up a lot of stuff to take me and sees me in the future of the team and I see myself there too. There's a lot of little things that go into negotiations — if it's money wise or length — and there was a various amount [of offers] that was thrown out on both sides. With no [arbitration] rights, the best thing for me and my team was to bet on myself, take the year and go from there next year."

With that comes the pressure of having to earn another contract for the second straight year, which is also risky considering he's coming off an injury that sidelined him all summer. But that's just the way he wants it.

"Either way I want to play my best, if I have a contract or not for long-term," Hartman said. "There is the benefit of having security with long-term deals, but you see guys, in history, that sign these deals and maybe have a year or two of, not really being complacent, but just feeling satisfied. I don't like the feeling of being satisfied. I'm not saying that's why I took that contract over another contract, but it was a good month and a half of debating one of the other three [offers]. My family and my agent, we chose this was the best for me and the team as well."

It's easy to see why the Predators are happy with this deal, too. Hartman is better suited to play in a bottom-six role on a really good team but has the ability to play in the top-six if needed. A strong season out of him and they'll be happy to reward him with a longer-term offer next summer. It also means he'd be making an impact while making less than $1 million, and every contending team needs those contributions from their depth players.

Pull up the Predators' CapFriendly page and you'll notice generous contract after generous contract for a majority of their players, particularly their core group. Look no further than Ryan Ellis, who signed an eight-year extension on Tuesday that carries a cap hit of $6.25 million. He certainly left money on the table but elected to take less to follow the lead of everyone else in Nashville because the ultimate goal is to keep the band together.

"You look at Sidney Crosby, one of the best players in the league, isn't even making close to the most money in the league and that's a reason why they've won two Cups," Hartman said. "They have space, maybe not necessarily as much as the Preds do, but Poile's good at that, he's good at stressing winning, the importance of winning, and keeping a team together. Sometimes when you go year to year losing four or five players every summer, it takes a toll having to introduce yourself to new guys all the time. Keeping the same group is really beneficial."

The Predators won't have to do much introducing next month. They're essentially rolling back the same team that arguably would've reached the Stanley Cup Final if they had gotten past the Winnipeg Jets. Hartman will be an important part of that group, only this time he'll be there from the start.

"That's what I'm really excited for," he said. "It's tough coming in [halfway through the season], it kind of feels like ... it's your first time getting called up with the new team. You're adjusting, you're trying not to make a mistake, trying to earn a spot, per se, earn the respect of your peers, so having that and going through a playoff run and a Game 7, if you go through a Game 7 with anybody, it's a bond. The stuff you fight through and you play for each other, to be able to go through a training camp and the ups and downs throughout the whole season, it's going to be exciting. I fell in love with the group for the short time I was there and I'm excited to be there at the start of training camp."

Chicago Pro Hockey League set to kick off at MB Ice Arena


Chicago Pro Hockey League set to kick off at MB Ice Arena

Hockey in July? Sign us up.

The Chicago Pro Hockey League is set to begin on Wednesday at MB Ice Arena — the home of the Blackhawks practice facility — which will feature more than 80 professional hockey players from the NHL, AHL and ECHL, along with 80 elite amateurs from various Division 1 colleges, junior teams and AAA programs. 

Among the notable participants: Brandon Bollig, Alex DeBrincat, Connor Carrick, Ryan Dzingel, Christian Dvorak, Christian Fischer, Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, Henri Jokiharju, John Moore, Jordan Oesterle, Brandon Saad, Nick Schmaltz, Garret Sparks and Tommy Wingels. USA Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne is also slated to play and will be the only female to do so.

Patrick Kane was originally listed as part of the roster but is no longer on it, although he could make an appearance if his schedule allows it.

Joel Quenneville spoke at the NHL Draft about the summer league and plans to attend.

"I probably will stop by and watch some games," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's good for the agents, good for the players. The Boston league seemed to work well and players have fun with it. One game, no contact situation. It's good for their conditioning and keep their skills a little sharper and I think they'll have some fun with one another as well."

There will be four games every Wednesday — two for each league at 6:20/6:30 and 7:50 p.m — across seven weeks, with each team scheduled to play six regular-season games, one playoff game (Aug. 22) and the potential to advance to the championship game on Aug. 23. The games will be played at 4-on-4 with two 25-minute halves. Overtime will be played at 3-on-3 for five minutes, followed by a shootout if the score remains tied; playoff games will be played at 5-on-5, but overtime rules will remain the same.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. on game days and the cost is $5 to attend, but for those not able to, all games will be broadcast and streamed live on the CPHL website as a way to keep up with the action.