Jonathan Toews

Patrick Kane

Kane thinks Anisimov could be ‘ideal’ fit as his center in Chicago

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The Chicago Blackhawks are going to look different in quite a few ways next season, and that’s definitely true down the middle.

Of course, Jonathan Toews stands as the No. 1 center, but thinks get interesting after that. Head coach Joel Quenneville indicated that Artem Anisimov will take the second spot while Teuvo Teravainen is expected to slide from the wing to a third-line center role, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Boasting considerable size and a change-of-pace style compared to recent second-line centers in Chicago (he certainly won’t be confused for Brad Richards), Anisimov should make for an awfully interesting fit.

Patrick Kane indicated on Friday that he’s excited to line up with the towering pivot.

“He’s a big, smart, two-way centerman, a left-handed shot,” Kane said, according to the Sun-Times. “That’s kind of the ideal center for someone like myself. He’s also got the skill, too. He could be a really dangerous fit on our team. So I’m looking forward to the chance of playing with him, if that’s the case.”

Second City Hockey points out that the Blackhawks have been hoping to plug someone like Anisimov, 27, into that second-line spot for some time.

After the Hawks sorted through a number of options last season, eventually giving up a first-round pick to rent Antoine Vermette, Anisimov can be the big (6’4, 198 pounds) center who eats minutes and plays the two-way game that coach Joel Quenneville craves. He’s not a flashy scorer, but certainly brings a change of pace from many of the team’s other options, including [Marko] Dano.

It’s been a turbulent offseason for Chicago, but this franchise has weathered storms and changes before. Blackhawks management might just seem ahead of the curve – again – if players like Anisimov and Teravainen really take off going forward.

Toews says Ducks, not Lightning, were Blackhawks’ toughest opponent

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There’s a scene in “Talladega Nights” where Will Ferrell’s character deeply insults someone, but feels like he can get away with it by saying “with all due respect.”

It was hard not to think of that moment when Jonathan Toews praised the Anaheim Ducks’ efforts just a little bit more than the Tampa Bay Lightning’s opposition at a Blackhawks fan convention.

“No disrespect to Tampa because I think they far exceeded our expectations for what they were able to do and how difficult they made things on us,” Toews said, according to the Associated Press.

Still, he said the Ducks series “stands out to me in the last number of years as far as the challenges.”

(Attention Los Angeles Kings fans: you might be able to really stretch the limits of context and get mad about this, too, if you’re really bored.)

One can nitpick certain aspects of Blackhawks – Ducks and Blackhawks – Lightning to praise one over the other. Every game of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final was tight, while the Western showdown featured some high-scoring contests, especially when Chicago ran away with things at the end.

Still, it’s no secret that many believe that the West is still the best of the two conferences, possibly by a large margin.

It would be silly to make too much bulletin board material out of these comments, but maybe there is the sense that “Captain Serious” agrees about one conference standing head and shoulders above the other.

In an amusing bit of scheduling, the Blackhawks’ first games against those two opponents are consecutive contests at United Center, as they host the Lightning on Oct. 24 and the Ducks on Oct. 26. Maybe the 2015-16 versions of these teams will make a different sort of impression on Toews?

Voracek’s agent begins extension talks with Flyers

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The Philadelphia Flyers need to agree to terms with restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto, but they’re otherwise pretty much set for training camp. That doesn’t mean the rest of the summer will be uneventful though.

Jakub Voracek is going into the final season of his four-year, $17 million contract and the Flyers might avoid the uncertainty that comes with that by re-signing him this summer. His agent Petr Svoboda has begun talks with the team, per CSN Philly.

The 25-year-old forward scored 22 goals and 81 points in 82 contests last season, so he’s in line for a big raise. He’s not much older than Vladimir Tarasenko, who signed a eight-year, $60 million deal on Tuesday. It’s not a perfect comparable because Tarasenko is more of a goal scorer while Voracek has more NHL experience. Voracek also has a better track record over the last three seasons with 189 points in 212 games compared to Tarasenko’s 135 points in 179 contests.

In fact, over the last three campaigns, Voracek ranks eighth in total points among players that are 28 years old or younger. Of those in the top-10, the only ones to re-sign within the last year were Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (ninth and 10th respectively), who inked matching eight-year, $84 million contracts. But of course, Kane and Toews are being paid for more than just their point production.

CSN Philly speculated that Voracek is probably looking at a five-year deal that comes with at least a $7 million annual cap hit and in this market, that would probably be seen as good value.

PHT Morning Skate: Scott Darling gets tattoo to commemorate Stanley Cup win

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Chicago Blackhawks’ backup goaltender Scott Darling got some ink done to commemorate the Stanley Cup victory. (Puck Daddy)

Ronnie Shuker takes a look at what a summer workout program entails for NHLers. (The Hockey News)

Chicago-area brewery, Hailstorm Brewing Co., has named a beer after Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews. The brewery now has Captain Serious #19 Pale Ale on tap. (Bar Down)

Following T.J. Oshie’s trade to Washington last week, a video of 5-year-old Libby Lu crying about the trade went viral. Oshie surprised Libby on SportsCenter over the weekend:

The Hockey News has the latest numbers on visor usage around the NHL. (The Hockey News)

The Toronto Maple Leafs may have finally unloaded Phil Kessel last week in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins; however, you’ll have trouble replicating the deal on the video game NHL 15. (Bar Down)

Photo courtesy of @chihawksart

Brandon Saad brings championship experience to Blue Jackets

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He’s only 22 years old. Yet twice already in his young career, Brandon Saad has hoisted the Stanley Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Traded to Columbus on Tuesday, Saad officially signed a six-year, $36 million deal with the Blue Jackets on Friday.

Speaking to reporters in a conference call, Saad said he was “pretty certain” during the last few days since the blockbuster trade that a deal would get done with the Blue Jackets.

Despite his young age, he brings championship experience to a franchise that has made the playoffs only twice in its history.

Tuesday’s trade marked the end of Saad’s tenure in Chicago, a hockey market that has undergone a revival in the last 10 years and celebrated three championships in six years with the nucleus of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

Saad believes his time in Chicago has been vital to the evolution of his career. He scored twice in the Stanley Cup Final, including the winner in Game 4. The Blackhawks never looked back from there.

“Just the experience of being there and going on deep playoff runs and being able to win … it’s really helped my game grow,” he said.

“It’s really incredible for my career. It’s really helped me progress along and I can’t thank them enough.”

It has already been talked about that Saad, coming off a career best 23 goals and 52 points this past season in Chicago, could play on the wing on a line with 22-year-old center Ryan Johansen, who also established a career best in points with 71.

“I’m not sure who I’m going to be playing with and we’ll deal with that when it comes but they’ve got a lot of talented guys and I know playing against them, for how hard they work and the type of system, they’re tough to play against,” said Saad, adding he’s played mostly on the left wing during his NHL career, but is familiar on the right side, too.

“With that talent and skill on top of that, it makes them lethal and I’m happy to be a part of the team now.”