Just days from New Year’s, it has been another busy year for the Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman. Keeping a championship window open isn’t easy with the salary cap strangling your checkbook, and Bowman had his work cut out for him in 2016.
The Blackhawks didn’t win the Stanley Cup, but they reached the playoffs behind the incredible one-two punch of Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. This season, the team is atop the Western Conference standings in late December. The success continues an impressive run for Bowman as GM, the role he’s filled since 2009.
But even with so many good things happening in Chicago, Bowman’s tenure has been far from perfect. So with 2016 wrapping up, now feels like a good time to dig into his recent moves and the direction he’s put the team on.
Like I did back in February, we’re going to break down every single major transaction (trade, signing, etc.) made by the Blackhawks since the start of the 2016 calendar year. This isn’t exactly a year from the last time we did this post, but now seems like a good time for an update.
And while I’ll be sharing my various opinions on the moves here, remember that (a) hindsight is 20/20, (b) not every transaction can be fairly evaluated in less than a year, and (c) not every transaction happens in a vacuum. Still, you can look at each move for what it is, and how it panned out so far, which is precisely what we’re about to do.
Jan. 3, 2016
Traded Jeremy Morin to the Maple Leafs for Richard Panik
A pretty good start to the year by the Blackhawks’ front office. Panik has settled in as a solid role player for Chicago since the middle of last season with 15 goals and eight assists in 67 games. He’s definitely been more valuable than Morin, who continues to bounce around the AHL struggling to break through. Morin has 11 points 21 games with the Syracuse Crunch this season, and now he’s 25 years old. The Hawks were smart to deal him for someone they actually wanted to use.
Jan. 12, 2016
Signed coach Joel Quenneville to a three-year contract extension
I mean, duh. Curious roster management decisions aside, Quenneville might be the best coach in hockey.
Jan. 21, 2016
Traded Ryan Garbutt to the Ducks for Jiri Sekac
Another deal like Morin-for-Panik where the Blackhawks hoped to turn a relatively superfluous player into someone more valuable. This move didn’t work out as well, however, as Sekac played just six games with Chicago before being claimed off waivers by the Coyotes. He only lasted 11 games there, then signed with AK Bars of the KHL during the offseason. Garbutt, meanwhile, is still in the NHL, but the Blackhawks don’t really have a shortage of mediocre bottom-six forwards now anyway.
Feb. 25, 2016
Traded Marko Dano, 2016 first-round pick, and a 2018 conditional third-round pick to the Jets for Andrew Ladd, Jay Harrison, and Matt Fraser
A win-now move in every way, this trade simply didn’t work out. The Blackhawks paid an extremely high price for Ladd, one of the top players on the market at the 2016 trade deadline, in order to shore up their No. 1 line for a playoff run. Ladd was merely good instead of great, though, and ended up playing just 26 games for the Blackhawks (including the postseason) before leaving as a free agent. You have to take some gambles when you think you’re close to a Stanley Cup, but Chicago got burned by its win-now strategy last season.
Feb. 26, 2016
Traded Rob Scuderi to the Kings for Christian Ehrhoff
The final vestige of the Patrick Sharp trade is a very sad one. The Blackhawks got saddled with Scuderi’s $3 million-plus cap hit thanks to the questionable Trevor Daley trade with Pittsburgh, then were forced to retain over $1 million in salary through 2016-17 in order to ship Scuderi to Los Angeles for Ehrhoff. The Hawks hoped Ehrhoff could at least be a decent depth defenseman down the stretch last season, unlike Scuderi, but the results were mixed. Now Ehrhoff is playing in his native Germany.
Feb. 26, 2016
Traded Phillip Danault and a 2018 second-round pick to the Canadiens for Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise
Like with the Ladd trade, this deal only looks good if the Blackhawks win the 2016 Stanley Cup. Otherwise, you pretty much cannot justify the price Bowman paid in order to acquire two role players as short-term rentals. Danault, 23, is proving to be a very solid third-line forward for the Canadiens, and the team gave up a second-round pick, too. Part of why the price was so high was that Chicago needed Montreal to retain salary to make the money work. Trading so much for forward help when Trevor van Riemsdyk was your No. 4 defenseman looks like a mistake in retrospect, though.
Feb. 29, 2016
Traded Dennis Robertson to the Hurricanes for Drew McIntyre
A minor deal that didn’t change much. McIntyre played eight games for Rockford last season. Now he plays in the KHL.
Feb. 29, 2016
Traded Corey Tropp to the Ducks for Tim Jackman and a 2017 seventh-round pick
This was a sneaky deal because it gave the Blackhawks another pick in the 2017 draft. Even if it’s just a seventh-rounder, Tropp was never going to be a factor in Chicago, so it’s not bad to get a lottery ticket out of the situation.
March 3, 2016
Signed Kyle Baun to a two-year contract extension
Solid AHL depth forward who can step into a fourth-line role in the NHL if needed. You need guys like that in your system, even if Baun’s future prospects don’t seem especially bright.
March 8, 2016
Signed Marcus Kruger to a three-year contract extension
A questionable deal to pay a premium for a bottom-six center given the team’s salary cap structure. The good news is that Kruger has played well this season — better than last season — and made his $3.08 million cap hit easier to justify. He continues to be stellar at flipping the ice despite extreme zone start distribution, and his point production has bounced back to a degree after a brutal four points in 41 games last season. Still, $3.08 million creates some challenges when the top of your roster is so costly, and it could spell the end of Kruger’s time in Chicago eventually.
March 14, 2016
Signed Viktor Svedberg to a two-year contract extension
As long as he never plays in Chicago again, I’m cool with this extension. The 6’8 Svedberg can eat AHL minutes, but he showed last season that he’s just not cut out to thrive in the Blackhawks’ puck-moving system.
May 24, 2016
Signed Michal Kempny, Lars Johansson, and Martin Lundberg to one-year contracts
Kempny is the name that stands out here, but he’s also been a healthy scratch for most of December. At the time, these were just sensible signings of European veterans to fill out depth for a team that knew it didn’t have much cap space. Kempny seemed to be living up to expectations early in the season, but now that he’s settled into the press box, the shine has worn off a tad.
June 15, 2016
Traded Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell to the Hurricanes for a 2016 second-round pick and 2017 third-round pick
Oh, Teuvo. Teuvo Teuvo Teuvo. This is one of those deals that you really cannot evaluate properly after just a few months. It all depends on how Teuvo and the players Chicago drafts with those picks pan out. Teravainen has been good, not great, in Carolina, but one cannot deny that his skilled game would be welcomed in Chicago right now. The Blackhawks were resigned to trading Bickell last summer, though, even if it meant losing Teravainen. Hopefully Artur Kayumov is good.
June 24, 2016
Traded Andrew Shaw to the Canadiens for two 2016 second-round picks
A tough deal to swallow given Shaw was a fan favorite in Chicago, but I think Bowman deserves credit for this trade. Re-signing Shaw for $3-4 million over 7-8 years would’ve been an extremely risky move given their salary cap structure, so the Blackhawks did well to deal him to Montreal for two second-rounders. That one of them became Alex DeBrincat, who is now the Blackhawks’ No. 1 prospect, further shows that this was smart asset management. If you’re going to trade a beloved player, get a good return ... and that’s exactly what Bowman did.
Signed Richard Panik, Mac Carruth, Dennis Rasmussen, Brandon Mashinter, and Michal Rozsival to one-year contracts extensions
A few one-year RFA extensions to role players and AHL fodder to maintain the team’s depth entering the season. Panik is the biggest name there, but Carruth could actually become important for expansion draft purposes in the offseason.
July 1, 2016
Signed Brian Campbell to a one-year contract
A very smart signing by a team without a ton of options. The Blackhawks convinced Campbell to take less money to come back to Chicago, which he calls home, and it’s helped re-establish the team’s defensive corps after an up-and-down season. Campbell hasn’t been amazing in the first half of the season, but having him for around $2 million (including performance bonuses) sure beats trotting Viktor Svedberg or Michal Rozsival every night.
July 1, 2016
Signed Sam Carrick, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and Spencer Abbott to one-year contracts
Abbott is third on the IceHogs with 16 points in 27 AHL games, while Carrick (nine points) and Labrie (five points) also play each night for Rockford. When you’ve bumped like six rookies into your NHL lineup, someone needs to step in at the lower level.
July 6, 2016
Signed Jordin Tootoo to a one-year contract
The Blackhawks decided Brandon Mashinter was too Brandon Mashinter to fill the Brandon Mashinter role, so they went out and signed Jordin Tootoo thanks to recommendations from their star defensemen. Presumably that means Tootoo is a good presence in the locker room, which is pretty much all he brings given he’s recorded zero points and averaged 6:44 ATOI in 28 games this season. At least he does genuinely seem like a good dude.
July 26, 2016
Agreed to mutual contract termination with David Rundblad
Farewell, Sparkles. I always thought you’d be better than you were.
And somehow that’s it! As I noted in November and still applies now, the Blackhawks have basically stood pat for months. They’ve shown commitment to their young players given a lack of salary cap flexibility, a desire to retain their 2017 draft picks, and a strong start to the season on the ice.
You also could figure that the team decided to be a little more conservative after getting burned by its aggressiveness at the 2016 trade deadline. While Bowman’s strategy made sense given the way 2015 worked out, the execution seems to have been rather poor.
So what do you think about the work Bowman did in 2016? Did he make a mistake in using an aggressively win-now approach at last season’s trade deadline, or was it the right call even now? Let us know what you think in the comments, and hopefully we get some new moves to discuss sooner than later, too.