Getty

From Anisimov to Seabrook, exploring Blackhawks’ trade deadline options

16 Comments

Brent Seabrook has been a significant part of Chicago Blackhawks history.

After arriving in the NHL back in 2005-06, he has spent 14 seasons as a part of their blue line, playing in more than 1,000 games and being a cornerstone piece of a team that won three Stanley Cups in a six-year stretch between 2010 and 2015. He is undoubtedly on the short list of most important players to ever play for the team.

Eventually, though, father time comes calling for everybody and Seabrook has simply not been that same player and the Blackhawks have not been that same team for a couple of years now. With the team headed toward what looks to be its second straight non-playoff season and saddled with large contracts for aging players, there is no doubt that general manager Stan Bowman is exploring all of his options, including the possible trades of players like Seabrook that were a key part of the most successful era in franchise history.

One thing is certain up front: You can probably safely assume that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are on the team’s “untouchable” list, as is Alex DeBrincat, the best young player in the organization and an emerging star.

Everybody else, however, should probably be sitting in the team’s front yard next to the “for sale” sign as they attempt to get out of this rut they have fallen into over the past two seasons.

At the top of that for sale list has to be the blue line duo of Seabrook and Duncan Keith, both of whom are over the age of 33 and still signed to long-term contracts beyond this season.

If the Blackhawks are going to turn the page and move forward as an organization into a new era, it would be in their best interest to find a way to move one — if not both — of those contracts, with Seabrook’s probably being the most pressing given that his play seems to have slowed down the most between the two players.

There has been speculation in recent weeks that the Blackhawks may approach (or have already approached) both players about waiving their no-movement clauses. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Saturday night that the Blackhawks have already approached Seabrook about waiving his and that as of this moment he has declined to waive it, which is well within his right to do. Both sides negotiated that clause in the contract, he earned it, and it’s not up to him to help out the Blackhawks out of their current jam.

If he is happy being in Chicago and being a Blackhawk, he can say no to anything they offer him.

The same is true for Keith.

That doesn’t mean the Blackhawks shouldn’t try, because they absolutely should.

Both players still have at least four more years after this one remaining on their deals (Seabrook actually has five more years remaining) at a combined salary cap hit of more than $11 million per season. While Keith is still a good player and still probably a bargain based on what he provides, there is going to come a point where both players are going to have their careers take a cliff dive. There’s an objective argument to be made that is already happening in Seabrook’s case, which would make his contract extremely difficult (though not impossible) to move even if he was willing to move on.

If they can’t move on from the defenders, there are options at forward.

Artem Anisimov (limited no-trade clause) is another veteran on the other side of that 30 that still has multiple years remaining (two more after this one) on his current contract and has also seen his production plummet over the past two years.

Then there is Brandon Saad, whose return to Chicago has simply not worked the way anyone with the Blackhawks thought it would, and only looks worse given the way Artemi Panarin has continued to be one of the league’s elite offensive players and playmakers.

Saad is still owed $12 million over the next two years after this one.

All of that means Blackhawks have more than $22 million in cap space tied up in the quartet of Keith, Seabrook, Saad, and Anisimov over the next few years, and other than Keith they are not getting anywhere near close to that level of production out of the group. Given the ages of those players and their current career trajectories that is only going to get worse before those deals expire.

That means it should be a priority — and a necessity — for the Blackhawks to unload as many of those contracts as they can, as soon as they can.

It may not bring back a ton of of value in terms of assets (draft picks or players), and it may even require some retained salary or some creative cap maneuvering.

But it is not even necessarily about the assets they could or would get back in return that is important.

It is the salary cap space they could create that matters.

The Blackhawks’ top players are still playing like their top players. Kane is still one of the league’s most productive forwards, and even Toews has seen his career bounce back a little bit offensively after a couple of declining years. DeBrincat is, again, becoming a star and they may have found something in Dylan Strome. There is still a core of players at the top of the roster they can compete with. But everything else around them has fallen off so much that they are once again near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

They are still the Chicago Blackhawks. They are still a destination team in the NHL with star players at the top of the lineup. They just need to be able to create the necessary space that will allow them to fit the necessary complementary pieces on the roster.

That has to start with some significant trades, even if they involve players that have been a significant part of making the Blackhawks what they have been during this era.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Patrick Kane beats Mitch Marner in tiebreaker to win first Shooting Stars event

Patrick Kane Shooting Stars
Getty Images
Leave a comment

To jeers from the St. Louis faithful, Patrick Kane won the first rendition of the “Shooting Stars” competition at the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Event.

Now, the crowd wasn’t booing just because Kane plays for the Blues’ rival Blackhawks in the Central Division. Some might have been grumbling because of some rules confusion. In particular, shooters going for 10 points often felt like they hit the mark, only to realize that they were foiled by the arc. That happened most dramatically when Mitch Marner thought he hit 10 during the tiebreaker round against Kane (and Ryan O'Reilly?). Once it was clear Marner got nothing, Kane pulled off the equivalent to getting a field goal to win in NFL overtime.

Shooting Stars brings some fun. It also is the sort of activity where you can get a pop from the crowd by bringing in retired stars. The audience received two such treats, as Keith Tkachuk joined his ragamuffin sons Brady and Matthew Tkachuk for an attempt. Brett Hull also took to the stage on behest of Ryan O’Reilly.

People worked the crowd beyond that. As often as Matthew Tkachuk plays the role of pro wrestling villain, he drew some easy cheers by showing off a Cardinals jersey. (To be fair, Matthew spent plenty of time in the area, so he might be a “shoot” Cardinals fan, to use pro wrestling parlance.)

So … maybe this one needs some fine-tuning, but it was really fun, including strong showings from Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight. Hockey combining Dude Perfect trick shot videos with Skee-Ball seems like a winner. Now they just need to print out tickets so people can earn worthless nicknacks.

Results

Patrick Kane – 22, “2” in tiebreaker

Mitch Marner – 22, narrowly missed 10 in tiebreaker
Matthew Tkachuk – 20
Marie-Philip Poulin – 15
Hilary Knight – 14
Ryan O’Reilly – 14
David Perron – 14
Tyler Seguin – 14
David Pastrnak – 10
Brady Tkachuk – 6

Shea Weber reclaims NHL Hardest Shot title

shea weber hardest shot
Getty Images
Leave a comment

ST. LOUIS — Shea Weber won the 2020 Hardest Shot title with a slap shot of 106.5 mph during Friday’s NHL All-Star Skills event.

“I think I knew all along that we were all just a part of the show,” said defending champion John Carlson, who finished second with a 104.5 mph shot, about going up against Weber.

The Montreal Canadiens captain won the event three straight times from 2015-2017 but did not participate the last two years. Weber topped the field of six players, which also included Elias Pettersson, Mark Giordano, Seth Jones, and Victor Hedman, with a 105.9 mph first shot.

Weber then topped his first attempt with the 106.5 mph blast.

Weber’s two best results in his Hardest Shot career remain the 108.5 mph from 2015 and the 108.1 mph the following year in Nashville.

Before the event got under way Blues legend and seven-time Hardest Shot champion Al MacInnis stepped on the ice, wood stick and all, and blasted one 100.4 mph. That shot tied his best result from the 1998 event, which he won.

FINAL RESULTS
Shea Weber 106.5 (winner)
John Carlson 104.5
Elias Pettersson 102.4
Mark Giordano 102.1
Victor Hedman 102.1
Seth Jones 98.8

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canada edges U.S. in entertaining debut of Elite Women’s 3-on-3

Leave a comment

Canada’s All-Stars beat the U.S. 2-1 in a strong debut for the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 event. The two teams provided a spirited game as part of Friday’s 2020 NHL All-Star Skills event.

Rebecca Johnston scored the lone goal of the first period to give Canada an early lead. Johnston scored just 1:20 into the contest:

Mélodie Daoust fattened Canada’s lead to 2-0 during the second period, a tally that would end up being the game-winner:

The U.S. didn’t just roll over, however. They pressed to get back into that game, with Hilary Knight scoring a nice one to make it 2-1.

Both teams played a strong, competitive game, and saluted fans after the contest. You could argue that Ann-Renee Desbiens deserves the unofficial MVP, as the goalie made 18 saves.

Here are the full rosters and coaches from that great game. Hopefully this becomes a regular part of all future All-Star Games, not unlike the accuracy shooting and hardest shot competitions.

American All-Stars (Coach: Cammi Granato)
F Alex Carpenter
F Kendall Coyne Schofield
F Brianna Decker
F Amanda Kessel
F Hilary Knight
F Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson
F Annie Pankowski
D Kacey Bellamy
D Lee Stecklein
G Alex Rigsby Cavallini

Canadian All-Stars (Coach: Jayna Hefford)
F Meghan Agosta
F Mélodie Daoust
F Rebecca Johnston
F Sarah Nurse
F Marie-Philip Poulin
F Natalie Spooner
F Blayre Turnbull
D Renata Fast
D Laura Fortino
G Ann-Renée Desbiens

Referees Kelly Cooke and Katie Guay and lineswomen Kendall Hanley and Kirsten Welsh officiated the game.

The 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 24 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2020 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 25 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

NHL All-Star Skills 2020: Barzal tops McDavid to win Fastest Skater

Leave a comment

ST. LOUIS — Mathew Barzal won the 2020 Fastest Skater competition with a time of 13.715 during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition Friday night. The Islanders forward ends Connor McDavid‘s three-year reign as champion.

Of the eight competitors, Barzal and McDavid were the last to go and each beat McDavid’s best time — 13.310 seconds — of the last three years.

“I was talking to [McDavid] earlier in the lobby of the hotel,” Barzal said afterward. “I might have gotten lucky this week. He was on a break, his break actually happened for a few days so he hadn’t been on skates for a while. We just finished two days ago so I was fresh on my skates.

“You watch him out there, his stride is picture perfect, he never stops moving , so again, I don’t think I could have skated a better lap. I don’t think I could have done it again.”

Barzal finished third last year in San Jose with a time of 13.780. If he’s named to an All-Star roster next season he’ll be able to defend his crown at the BB&T Center when the Florida Panthers play host.

FINAL RESULTS
Mathew Barzal 13.175 (winner)

Connor McDavid 13.215
Chris Kreider 13.509
Jack Eichel 13.540
Nathan MacKinnon 13.895
Anthony Duclair 14.005
Travis Konecny 14.113
Quinn Hughes 14.263

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.