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Meet the new Blackhawks: Max Domi

An up-and-down career lands in Chicago, looking for another rebound season.

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Montreal Canadiens v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Similar to what was mentioned at the top of Monday’s long look at Andreas Athanasiou — another Chicago Blackhawks free-agent signing — Max Domi is another recent acquisition whose long-term future will not be in Chicago. He is in Chicago as a rental on a one-year, $3 million deal that can be easily moved at next year’s deadline for picks and/or prospects.

Unlike Athanasiou, though, Domi has flashed moments of top-line production in his career, which means he could yield a stronger trade return, should Domi flourish in Chicago. In 2020, Domi was traded for a third-round pick. Last spring, Domi was traded for a prospect who was a former third-round pick and ranked No. 18 in that organization’s prospect rankings by The Athletic. Neither of those returns feel particularly overwhelming, but they happened when Domi’s value trending downward.

Before we dive into Domi’s past NHL stops, a quick history lesson from the more distant past: Max Domi is the son of former NHLer Tie Domi, who remains No. 3 on the NHL’s career leaders in penalty minutes with 3,515, which explains where Max Domi’s ornery streak originated. Tie Domi also once (in)famously fought a fan who fell into the penalty box. So it goes.

While Tie Domi’s career-high for points in a season was 29, Max Domi looked like a long-term fixture for the Montreal Canadiens’ top-six just a few seasons ago.

Domi’s 2018-19 season with the Canadiens

Playing in all 82 games that season, Domi set career-highs in a slew of statistics: goals (28), assists (44), points (72), shot percentage (13.8) and average ice time (17:23). One of the biggest differences that season for Domi was his position: he played center during 2018-19, which proved to be a perfect match for Domi’s skills, as this lengthy summary from Habs’ Eyes on the Prize explained. Another key for Domi’s success that season was shooting the puck more. During 5-on-5 play in that 2018-19 season, Domi tallied a rate of 8.04 shots per 60 after hovering around 6.0 during his three seasons with the Arizona Coyotes.

Domi’s most common linemate that season was old friend Andrew Shaw and the most common trio that Domi skated with during the 2018-19 season was alongside Shaw and Jonathan Drouin. Shaw’s net-driving opened up space for his more offensively creative linemates and the trio flourished because of it: Drouin, like the aforementioned Domi, set career-highs in assists (35) and points (53, tied) during that 2018-19 season.

But Shaw was traded back to Chicago in the summer of 2019 and Domi struggled to find a trio that clicked as well as that one. By the time the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs rolled around, Domi was routinely toiling at the bottom of the Montreal lineup — even if portions of the fan base were clamoring for him to be moved up higher. Domi also appeared to have fallen out of favor with Montreal coach Claude Julien, and the Canadiens shipped him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in October 2020. In the abbreviated 2021 season, Domi had just 24 points in 54 games and then tallied 39 points in 72 games between Columbus and the Carolina Hurricanes last season.

Domi did have a bright moment in Carolina, though. During Game 6 of Carolina’s first-round series against the Boston Bruins, Domi was shuffled onto a line with high-end talents Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen. That trio stayed together for Game 7 and it helped Carolina eliminate Boston by producing all three Carolina goals in a 3-2 win. Domi scored twice and had a primary assist on the third goal.

In the other 13 postseason games from, though, Domi had just three points, so it’s not like Domi was in Conn Smythe consideration. But, similar to that 2018-19 season, it does show that Domi has the ability to flourish with talented linemates.

Which brings us to Domi’s upcoming season in Chicago.

As the data above indicates, Domi’s game is largely focused in the offensive categories and he appears to be especially good at passing: he had one of the best rates of primary assists in the league last season. Domi’s most common 5-on-5 linemate in Columbus last season was center Jack Roslovic, who scored a career-high 22 goals in 2021-22.

Whether he plays center or at left wing, the idea with Domi would seem to be this: put him on a line with Patrick Kane for the majority of the season, and see how much offensive magic they can create together. Perhaps, Domi finds a resurgence in Chicago similar to the his thriving 2018-19 season in Montreal, a bounce-back effort that would have him high on the list of Stanley Cup contenders at next spring’s deadline.