Hockey

It probably should have happened a year ago, if ever at all, and you knew it was coming for sure as soon as the Hawks drafted Kirby Dach. The Hawks needed cap space, they needed a space for another center either this year or next, so off Artem Anisimov had to go. And today he did to Ottawa, for Zack Smith. The headline of the deal is that the Hawks will save $1.3M in space over the next two years. I’ll forgive you if you don’t vomit with joy.

On the surface to the uninitiated, it will look a little strange. After all, Anisimov managed 20 goals in three of his four seasons here, and was in between Kane and Panarin when they were setting off all sort of fireworks together for two seasons. To the dedicated observer though, Anismov’s numbers were something of a mirage. He was a plug-plus at best who could barely move and had decent hands around the net. His goals and points were accumulated through the Nuno Gomes method, which is where you let far more talented players ping pucks/balls off of you into the net and you get to take the credit. In a league that’s only getting faster, Anismov’s place became more and more precarious, and he was hardly cut out to be a bottom-six winger as he was at times last season.

Anisimov’s extension will be another cudgel to beat Stan Bowman whenever he is fired or leaves, though those in the know will tell you orders came down from on high on that one to appease the angry masses about the first Brandon Saad trade. Whatever, it’s over now.

Of course, this being the new Hawks ethos, they got a plug in return. They’ve been chasing Zack Smith for years, with rumors of them calling the Senators about him stretching back to at least 2013. He’s got that precious size, except he doesn’t do much with it anymore and he isn’t very quick either. Smith has only managed 20 goals in the league once, where he shot 20%. The past two years he’s pretty much been between a third- and fourth-line contributor, and while listed as a center I have to believe at his age they see him as a wing now. Otherwise you’ve basically made a lateral move for a fraction of cap space now and next year.

Metrically, Smith hasn’t been of any use in a couple years, though he was getting dungeon-shifted by the Sens last year and you might imagine that’s the plan here whether he ends up skating with Kampf or Carpenter or both. Or maybe the Hawks are planning to move him along as well to open up even more cap space. We’ll see.

Smith can certainly act as more of a checking center than Arty ever could, though that would give you 2.5-3 checking centers in Kampf, Smith, and Carpenter. So you’re depth chart looks something like:

Saad-Toews-Shaw

DeBrincat-Strome-Kane

Kubalik-Smith/Dach/Kampf-Sikura

Caggiula-Kampf/Carpenter-Carpenter/Smith/Perlini/Wedin

Let’s just say there are options on the bottom-six, and that’s even without the longshot of Dach making the team. Again, it’s not that likely that Smith is at center these days, so the most likely solution is Kampf and Carpenter taking the last two center spots, with an outside shot of Caggiula taking some fourth center time (they wanted to try it last year, or so they said).

So there you go, the Anisimov Experience is over. The first Brandon Saad trade now has netted you…well, nothing.  A couple of 20-goal seasons that stood for bupkus. Great work all around.

 

Everything Else

I suppose I should rejoice that they’re doing SOMETHING. And the quickness with which it was done lets you know the Hawks know they need to make changes and are urgent to do so. I’m not sure that matters when your changes are wrong.

In case you didn’t see the news, the Hawks traded Dominik Kahun and a 5th round pick this year to Pittsburgh for Olli Maatta. I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you. Olli Maatta sucks. He’s sucked for years now, and the only reason anyone would be attracted to him is a first-round draft pedigree that is now seven years old and buried under the dust of underwhelming when not straight-up bad performance. This is how Pierre McGuire would make trades.

Maatta is SUH-LOW. In a league that’s getting faster and for a team that lacks any mobility on the blue line, I guess he’ll fit right in but he doesn’t fix anything. He also can’t make up for it by making plays or the like, as the Hawks could get away with a slow d-man who can at least get the puck out and up to the forwards quickly and crisply. Maatta cannot do that, or at least hasn’t shown he can.

Maatta spent a majority of the season on the Penguins third pairing, which he was eventually punted from when Marcus Pettersson proved to be more useful and after the acquisition of Erik Goddamn Fuck You Gudbranson. That’s right, Erik “If And Italian Beef Shit Were A Hockey Player” Gudbranson was much preferred over Maatta in the playoffs. And before you say, “Well, maybe the coach is an idiot?” remember Mike Sullivan has two rings.

You can at least try and find the pinch-hold that Maatta started an overwhelming amount of his shifts in the defensive zone this year. But his zone-starts weren’t really noticeably worse than Letang’s or Dumoulin’s (the guy the Hawks probably should have been calling about) but his metrics far worse. And in the previous three seasons, Maatta’s zone starts have been more forgiving and his possession numbers are still awful.

Maatta has never managed more than 30 points in the league, so he’s not offensively gifted. He’s not like, an awful passer, but he’s far from a dynamic one.

To add to that, he’s made of duct tape and snot. He’s gone the route of 82 games just once in six seasons, and has missed more than 15 games in a year four times in his six year career.

One more thing, he’s not even that cheap! Maatta makes $4M for the next three seasons, but seems awfully expensive for a third-pairing d-man, which is all Maatta has ever proven to be. Good thing the Hawks already had like, five of those.

And this isn’t some love letter to Dominik Kahun. He’s a useful player that can help a team a lot from the bottom six, but he’s also the type of player you’re supposed to be able to find with regularity. And the Hawks might already have with Dominik Kubalik, any step forward from Dylan Sikura, and possibly a surprise from Phillip Kurashev who I’ve decided to adopt as my guy for really no other reason than my love for Xherdan Shaqiri. Kahun will do well with the Penguins, but the Hawks should be able to plug that hole. You’d hope.

Where Maatta slots is another questions. He’s left-sided, so he’d be best paired with a fast, puck-moving, right-sided d-man. Let me look over who fills out that role for the Hawks. Oh that’s right, fucking no one. Boy, guess we’d better hope Boqvist makes the team out of training camp, huh? Except that Maatta won’t be able to cover for all his booboos in the d-zone. Wonderful. I’m now going to go eat a stainless steal pan.

If this is what the Hawks diagnose as their problem, they’re fucked. If they’re scouting Maatta as the mobility or assuredness they need, they’re fucked. Maatta is a bottom of the roster fix when the top is still emitting noxious fumes. You have to pray this is only the start and not the coup-de-useless.

Otherwise, great trade.

Everything Else

Finally, something. Thank you John Pullega for taking the Fels Motherfuck into new places and spurring something resembling action from the Chicago Blackhawks.

There’s a lot of flotsam in this trade, so here are the exact details: The Hawks send Marian Hossa’s corpse and contract, Vinnie Smalls, Jordan Oesterle, and a 2019 3rd rounder to Arizona for Marcus Kruger, the amazingly named MacKenzie Entwistle, Jordan Maletta, Andrew Campbell, and a 5th rounder in 2019. There’s a lot here. What’s sad is that there isn’t a lot here that matters.

Let’s start with what the Hawks are sending away. It was no secret that the Hawks wanted to get Hossa’s contract off their books to free up cap space that wasn’t LTIR. Hossa is never going to play again, we all know this, the Yotes need to get to the floor, and it hopes up Hossa’s entire hit. The problem is that this would have been a good idea to do before July 1st so the Hawks could have been more involved in the free agency market than picking up whatever everyone else left on the floor. But hey, we don’t shout at the rain here and what’s done is done.

Jordan Oesterle sucks. There’s no other way to say it, and though he spasmed a decent month with Duncan Keith and the Hawks could probably use more of his “KEEP FIRING ASSHOLES!” methods from the blue line in the offensive zone, the Hawks are currently stuffed with third-pairing d-men, and really anything that gets Jokiharju closer to the NHL roster should be applauded. He still is going to have to beat out Rutta and Forsling and Dahlstrom and whatever else, but hey, it’s a step.

Hinostroza is a loss. Everyone who’s been around here for any length of time knows I might be Vinnie Smalls’s biggest fan, as for a third line winger he generated top six levels of shots and chances. He’s ridiculously fast, which the Hawks need all they can get, and a positive forechecker and penalty killer. He makes shit happen. What might not ever happen is for him to have the finish to match what he creates and starts. He hasn’t at any level, though that could have come. This one might come back to haunt the Hawks, but if Dylan Sikura is everything the Hawks think he is (jury is very much still out on that one) then he’ll do everything Vinne would have done and more.

What the Hawks also get is a ton of cap space. They now have $9.3 million in space. If you can get Anisimov off the books, and Kruger’s acquisition might have that in mind, that’s $13M or so. Hey, Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson together this year are about $13 million in salary. Isn’t that interesting? I find that interesting.

Ok, let’s go to the other side. I’ll be honest with you, I had forgotten that the Hurricanes had dumped Marcus Kruger onto the Yotes. And the Canes had no use for Kruger at all. I can’t honestly tell you what happened there. Kruger, in only half of a season, still put up a positive Corsi-rel in Carolina while getting his usual dungeon starts. He didn’t produce offensively, because he doesn’t produce offensively. Kruger wasn’t quite as solid defensively as he was here, but a demotion to the AHL all year seems a tad harsh. Kruger is only one season removed from being the firefighter you remember here, and we know that Q knows exactly what he is. Let’s say he’s an improvement on David Kampf. And he only has one year on his deal, so if he’s another charred remains of a beloved warrior of victories past, well whatever.

The rest of this seems to be just Rockford filler. MacKenzie Entwistle, as badly as I want him to be a player so we can just keep saying, “MacKenzie Entwistle,” hasn’t really done much in the OHL and was a 3rd round pick. Let’s just say it’ll be a year or two before you see him near this team or something is wrong. Jordan Maletta is 23 and hasn’t sniffed the NHL for two organizations now. He be better get used to the comforts of Winnebago County. Andrew Campbell has played 42 games in the NHL over three seasons. Again, this is just a plug. None of this matters.

What this trade is about is the cap space. And maybe the security of Marcus Kruger on the 4th line, but at this point in his career if Kruger matters too much you’re fucking sunk. He’s not going to be The Black Knight of the playoff runs of ’13-’15 that you remember, or is highly unlikely to be.

So the cap space. As stated, it would fit Ryan and Karlsson with some rejiggering if Stan Bowman was suddenly feeling his oats and went all in. It would also easily accommodate Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner, if one were so inclined. It fits SOMETHING. So before we can pass judgement on this deal, we have to see what the next move it results in is first.

Everything Else

Yes, that is a Chili Peppers reference and yes, there was a time when the Chili Peppers were good. It’s far off in the distance now, most of you were probably not born or forgot there was a time when you were young. I know I have. But I swear to you, there was a time. And it was more than the time Anthony Kiedis shot himself in the foot in Point Break, which is assuredly the first joke McClure will make and I’m going to beat him to the punch.

BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.

The Hawks did address defensive depth tonight, something that had been rumored they were thinking about which confused us all, just a bit. They acquired Johnny Oduya from the Dallas Stars for the gimp they’ve been keeping in the cellar known as Mark McNeill, a 4th round pick that can become a 3rd depending on how the spring goes for the Hawks, and the Stars will retain 50% of O.D’s salary. Make your joke about Jim Nill’s water retention here…

Everything Else

Box Score

Event Summary

War on Ice

It was one of those weird games where the game was taking a backseat to news off the ice. Do the Hawks always lose the game where they make a trade? Or am I basing that off them getting thoroughly beaten in Tampa last year when they got Timonen and Vermette? I’m probably just making that up. Anyway, the Hawks did have a game to play while the Andrew Ladd trade was being polished off, and it ended in a loss where the Hawks didn’t do anything particularly wrong other than run into Pekka Rinne during his only streak of competence this season. That’s his fourth straight start of giving up two goals or less, and thanks to some spectacular saves, especially in the 1st period, he backstopped the Preds to a 10th unbeaten on the road in a row.

Everything Else

Interesting move this morning, as the Hawks traded CatButt to Anaheim for Jiri Sekac.

There isn’t much to tell about Sekac. I know that Habs fans last season were not pleased that the Canadiens gave up on him so quickly and he looked to be another sacrificed at Michel Therrien’s altar of “GRITSANDPAPERFAAAAART.” But Sekac never quite fit in with the Ducks either, and you sort of start to wonder how many more chances he has left.

He’s got good wheels and decent skill, so he would seem a perfect fit with the Hawks. But then he would have with the Ducks too, though maybe they couldn’t look beyond his size which isn’t much at a mere 6-0 and 185. Sekac put up seven goals and 16 points in 50 games in Montreal last year, and a further seven points in 19 games with the Ducks. He’s certainly capable of providing secondary scoring. He was carrying a 54% share so far this season, +2.9% of the Ducks’ team rate.

While everyone was falling over themselves about CatButt in October, anyone who had watched him play before this year (so basically only a few fans and no Hawks media) knew water would seek its own level. For the most part he’d lost his bowling ball game over the past couple months, though there was something of a revival the past couple games with Dr. Rasmussen and Panik At The Disco. But he is what he is.

Everything Else

So I was going to kick off our season preview today, but Mark Lazerus’s column today in the Sun-Times is deserving of focus. And a lot of it. There is so much to parse out from it. If you haven’t yet, read it and come back to this.

So let’s take it on in no particular order.

-In some ways, this situation is a lot simpler than it looks, and a lot more complicated in others.

For instance, if Kane is charged, it probably works out pretty easily. He’ll be suspended by the league or Hawks or both, whoever gets there first I would imagine. And he’ll almost have certainly played his last game for the Hawks, unless through the process of finding out what the evidence during hearings and a possible triel is it is glaringly clear he is not just “not guilty,” but innocent (and there is a difference, which it feels like some people don’t get).

Everything Else

Never let it be said that the Hawks aren’t completely aware of how to manipulate reaction to stuff like this, because I don’t think it’s any coincidence that they dumped the news of Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns getting dealt to Dallas (where Johns can pound on all their forwards for the next decade five times a year) for Ryan Garbutt and Trevor Daley. Nice try Stan, but we’re always watching.

There’s so many factors in this I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll go player by player. We knew Sharp was likely to go, even after Saad had to be tossed overboard because the math didn’t work with both Sharp and Oduya. No one expected a great return on Sharp, but I can’t help but think Stan Bowman overplayed his hand a bit here. While we won’t ever know what exactly was on offer before and at the draft, we know that there were discussions with several teams while Stan reportedly chased a 1st and a prospect. What he ended up with was an aging, one-way d-man (and not the right way) and a middle aged 4th liner, and he had to toss in Stephen Johns for the privilege of that. Would a 2nd and a 3rd round pick really have been any worse?

Everything Else

Ok, this won’t be too hard to try and get our arms around, will it?

Let’s all breathe. It’s not too hard to figure out what went down here. We said just a few weeks ago that hometown discounts are generally things agents and unions frown upon. Secondly, this is a weird kind of negotiation, where the Hawks wanted a bridge deal and Saad’s camp wanted long-term big paper. The problem with that is there really isn’t any middle ground. You can’t sign a four-year bridge deal. You don’t get much relief by paying Saad over $5.5 million for two years. It’ s kind of one or the other. The Hawks had an idea of what they wanted to do. It’s obvious Saad’s camp had quite another.

Everything Else

Because you’re lying in it now, aren’t you?

At the top of this, let’s lay out a positive scenario that’s more than possible. The Hawks are able to get another brilliant season out of both Hjalmarsson and Oduya, allowing Keith and Seabrook to take on easier assignments. After a couple rocky weeks or even months, the third pairing evens out through some combination of Klas Dahlbeck, Rozsival, TVR, Clendening, Rundblad, or even Johns with the easy zone starts and softball competition. Brad Richards goes back to playing the point on the second unit, something he’s done his whole career, and a reinvigorated Kris Versteeg is able to knock out some of the loss of Nick Leddy on that unit. Notice I didn’t write Kyle Cumiskey’s name, because he’s fucking terrible and an utter disaster waiting to happen. And you thought Leddy’s defensive work was bad. All of this could easily happen, and the trade of Nick Leddy today will become something of an afterthought, especially if Johns is able to nail down a spot on the second pairing next season.