There are a lot of former Chicago Blackhawks around the league at this point. The team has developed a good amount of NHL talent, and a constantly changing roster has spread former Hawks throughout the other 30 teams.
This summer, the Hawks lost a bunch of regulars from last year’s team. That’s been discussed at length at this point, but we haven’t really looked much at where those guys went. So while there will be lots of digging into the new team assembled by GM Stan Bowman over the last few months, here’s a look at how a bunch of former Hawks will fare on their new teams based on the knowledge we have from watching them in Chicago.
Artemi Panarin, Blue Jackets
Panarin won’t have Patrick Kane anymore, but it’s fair to say they raised each other’s games to a degree. Maybe Panarin isn’t quite a point-per-game player anymore with his linemates are, say, Alexander Wennberg and Josh Anderson, but this idea that he’ll fall off a cliff because he’s no longer partnering with Kane doesn’t make sense.
In fact, it was Kane whose numbers dropped significantly when those two weren’t together for 5-on-5 play last season. So it’s probably fair to figure Panarin pushes for 30-plus goals and 70-plus points again in Columbus, which would create an interesting dynamic as he enters the final year of his contract. Do the Blue Jackets pay up what it’ll take to lock up Panarin at age 26 coming off a third big season? The Hawks passed on that possibility in favor of the certainty of Brandon Saad.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes
It’s a whole new world for Hjalmarsson with the young Coyotes, who will be scraping to become a playoff contender after some notable summer additions. Most likely, Hjalmarsson stays on his offside to pair up with fellow Swede Oliver Ekman-Larsson on what should be a good top pairing for Arizona. There’s a very good chance he’s an immediate upgrade from Connor Murphy, who we’re all hoping blossoms in a new environment.
Marcus Kruger, Hurricanes
I can’t say enough about how much I love this move for Carolina. The Hurricanes already had one of the top penalty kills in the game last season, finishing sixth at 84.2 percent. Now they’ve added Kruger, a great defensive guy, to replace center Jay McClement, who was by far Carolina’s worst penalty killer last season.
When McClement was on the ice for the PK, which happened a lot since he was their No. 1 center for these situations, the Hurricanes gave up 100.6 shot attempts and 7.43 goals per 60 minutes, per Natural Stat Trick. Somehow despite this, the Hurricanes only allowed 77.7 shot attempts (best in the NHL) and 5.37 goals (6th in the NHL) per 60 minutes on the PK. They were basically bad whenever McClement was there, and amazing when he wasn’t.
Now take a similar formula, and replace McClement with Kruger, who has a track record as one of the league’s premier defensive forwards. I don’t care if his cap hit is $3.08 million, this deal looks like a huge upgrade for the Hurricanes.
Scott Darling, Hurricanes
Another great move by Carolina to nab a good player from the Hawks. The Hurricanes’ primary goalie duo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack finished 27th in the NHL with a .901 save percentage. Darling has a career save percentage of .923 in 75 games (64 starts) with Chicago. Even if his efficiency takes a slight dip with the transition to a larger workload, it’s hard to see Darling imploding so badly in a starter’s role that this move isn’t a positive one for the Hurricanes. He should be at least an average starter, which is be a big upgrade, and there’s potential he’s a lot better than that.
Trevor van Riemsdyk, Hurricanes
Okay, we get it, Carolina, you realized the Hawks needed to get rid of guys and pounced. Van Riemsdyk isn’t great, but he’s also slotted to be the third-pairing right-handed defenseman behind Justin Faulk and Brett Pesce, which is where he belongs on a good NHL team. Nobody rooting for the Canes will be blown away, but you can do a lot worse for $825,000.
Dennis Rasmussen, Ducks
Rasmussen got dealt a tough hand in Chicago, where he showed signs of being a good fourth-liner but didn’t fit the team’s goal of getting faster next season. So he’s now with the Ducks, although he’ll also be battling for minutes on their fourth line with Logan Shaw, Chris Wagner, Ondrej Kase, and Jared Boll. Rasmussen can be useful as a big, defensively responsible forward, and he gives the coaching staff in Anaheim another option to figure out the best look in the bottom six.
Tyler Motte, Blue Jackets
Motte gives the Blue Jackets depth in the AHL more than anything at this point. He underwhelmed in his first stint with the Blackhawks, and the Blue Jackets already have several guys ahead of him on the depth chart, which only gets deeper if top prospect Pierre-Luc Dubois makes the team out of camp. Motte still has NHL potential, but he’s undersized and could use a good year with the Cleveland Monsters to get back on track.
Johnny Oduya, Senators
The Sens signed Oduya for depth, and if they’re getting the Oduya the Hawks got last season, they shouldn’t hope for much more. There have been whispers he could open the season as the partner for fellow countryman Erik Karlsson, who needs a new one after the departure of Marc Methot, but Oduya doesn’t seem up to the task of a top-four role in the NHL anymore. Unless a long offseason has allowed him to improve his form in a significant way, it’s hard to see Oduya working out in a prominent role.