Each day for the rest of the year, Second City Hockey will count down the top 10 Blackhawks stories of 2018.
In back-to-back seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks added Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz to the organization. Hartman was taken 30th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, with Schmaltz arriving one year later as the 20th overall selection.
By the start of the 2017-18 season, both had become fixtures in the NHL lineup and appeared to part of the team’s long-term future.
In a nine-month span in 2018, though, both would be traded away.
Hartman was the first to go, shipped off days before the trade deadline for the 2017-18 NHL season at the end of February. After appearing in 76 games during the 2016-17 season with 19 goals and 31 points, Hartman’s goal production took a small step back the following season, notching only eight in the 57 games he played with the Blackhawks. He bounced all over the lineup and was benched for the majority of a game right before the trade after taking an ill-advised high-sticking penalty. But the biggest reason for the Hartman trade likely centered around his contract situation: Hartman was due to become a restricted free agent in the 2018 offseason. He was also one of the few players without a no-movement clause in his contract, making a trade easier to complete.
Chicago received an impressive haul in the Hartman deal, too. While packaging a fifth-round pick with Hartman, the Blackhawks acquired prospect Victor Ejdsell, a 2018 first-round pick (which became Nicolas Beaudin) and a 2018 fourth-round pick (Philipp Kurashev).
Schmaltz’s ceiling looked even higher than Hartman’s.
After a strong finish to his rookie season, Schmaltz had 21 goals and 31 assists in 78 games during the 2017-18 season, finishing in a three-way tie for second place on the team with 52 points.
But Schmaltz struggled at the start of this season, scoring just twice in 23 games. His reluctance to shoot the puck — opting to pass too often, even in prime scoring chances — heightened the criticism around the former first-round pick. At one point, Schmaltz was even a healthy scratch, kept out of the lineup by then-coach Joel Qeunneville for a Nov. 1 game against the Edmonton Oilers. New Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton couldn’t snap Schmaltz out of that early-season funk and, just after Thanksgiving, Schmaltz was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for 2015 No. 3 overall pick Dylan Strome and 2014 No. 12 overall pick Brendan Perlini.
Early returns on the trade have been promising for both sides. Schmaltz has 12 points in 14 games in Arizona, while Strome has six goals and nine points in his 15 games with Chicago, forming early chemistry with Patrick Kane and former OHL teammate Alex DeBrincat, who played with Strome on the Erie Otters.