Full disclosure, I’m writing this wearing my Brandon Saad Saginaw Spirit jersey, so that’s where I am emotionally.
Ok… let’s see if we can parse this altogether. It’s not going to be easy. So here’s the facts. The Hawks first traded Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin. Then, presumably getting buzzed on the fumes from that, Stan Bowman turned around and traded Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte and a pick to Columbus for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and another pick.
Well…. well… let’s get to it, shall we?
I’m not going to bury the lede here on how we feel. The Hammer trade has the potential to be a very good one. Yeah I know, you’re throwing something at the screen right now, hoping it will somehow be absorbed by the internet and then spit out through my screen and hit me in the face.
But I know what I’m saying. Put the sentiment aside. For the second half of last year, Niklas Hjalmarsson was not good. Where before he could smother the best any opponent had to offer, he couldn’t do that last year. It wasn’t just Seabrook getting torched by the Predators last year. It was Hammer too. And as we’ve said repeatedly the past couple years, the aging curve on a less-than-mobile puck bag that Hammer was can get very ugly in an awful hurry. Think Rob Scuderi. Think Robyn Regehr. Think Niklas Kronwall. Think Brooks Orpik. Not pretty, no?
For the second half of last year, it looked like it could be starting down that path. He’s 30 now, which means he’s certainly past his prime years. You’re not going to get 2013 Hammer again. While this isn’t selling as high as you possibly can on an asset you can cash in on, it’s close. This is what you do to assets you think could depreciate in a hurry.
Hammer’s Corsi the last half of last season was 48.0%. His scoring-chance percentage was 46%. Those marks were down from 53% in both categories just two years ago. No matter your emotional attachment, he’s on the back nine of his career.
Connor Murphy, ideally, is Niklas Hjalmarsson minus six years and a fuckton of playoff miles. He was on Arizona’s top pairing last year, and as awful as they were and starting most of his shifts in the defensive zone, he was above the team rate in Corsi. Yeah, it helps to play with OEL but OEL was actually worse off without him. Murphy is also a legitimate 6-3 instead of a Hjalmarsson “6-3.” And he’s the same skater as Hammer. Yeah, there’s still work to do with him but he’s entering his prime and if Q and Ulf are the d-men whisperers they certainly want to claim they are, the Hawks could have an absolute monster on their hands.
Dauphin I wouldn’t claim to know as much about. I do know that the Hawks are short on centers in the feeder line, with only Schmaltz being a potential and he may be a permanent wing. He’s on the bigger side and put up a ton of points in the QMJHL, but then again so did you. He yo-yoed between the AHL and Arizona last year, putting up decent numbers in the A. If he can be anything… then this is an even better deal.
So that’s all neat and tidy and then…
Oh my god I love this deal so much. Before you get all weepy about Panarin, keep in mind that two years ago Saad put up 31 goals and last year 24 with Alex Fucking Wennberg and Nick Fucking Foligno as his linemates. Pantera got the best playmaker in the league to set him up, which he needed because from about November on Panarin pulled the Sharp post-’13 act which was float around and wait for Kane to hit your tape, which he always did.
The Hawks need a two-way forward who can score and kill penalties and win pucks in their own end. Panarin can’t do the latter two. Toews needs a running buddy. He gets his old one. And Saad is actually younger than Panarin. Watch what Panarin does with not gifted passer to play with. Think you’ll be surprised. Meanwhile here, even though he played the right side mostly in Erie, I’m fairly sure you can tell Alex DeBrincat to stand over there like Panarin did and wait for Kane’s pass. And I bet that’s at least 20 goals right there.
Also, the Hawks picked up their probably backup goalie in Anton Forsberg. Anton had 51 starts in the A last year, and put up a .926 SV%. And Stan has proven he can find a backup from nowhere in the past, but if you need reminding the lineage is Niemi-Emery-Raanta-Darling. They also acquired Anders Nilsson who didn’t suit up for the Hawks but was very good for the Sabres this year.
Did the Hawks get better? That’s hard to say. It depends on what Q and Ulf can immediately pull out of Murphy. Saad is a better fit than Panarin for what this team needs now. It still needs more because there’s still a Hossa sized gap on the right wing. But they are younger. They are probably quicker. They are certainly more interesting.