Chicago Blackhawks Trade Hjalmarsson, Panarin on Draft Day

On the first day of the NHL Entry Draft, the Chicago Blackhawks have traded two core players. Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson are leaving Chicago.

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Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) is congratulated by defenseman Duncan Keith (2) left wing Artemi Panarin (72) and left wing Richard Panik (14) (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Blackhawks opened the draft day with a flurry of news and trades, as the Blackhawks have officially made two trades already.

The first is Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for defensemen Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin.

The second is Artemi Panarin going to the Columbus Blue Jackets with prospect Tyler Motte and a sixth round pick.

That’s in exchange for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and a fifth.

Let’s break these two moves down.

Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona

This trade was made after the rumors of the Blackhawks moving a core player came to fruition.

Hjalmarsson had won all three recent Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks.

He was also a top 2 defenseman for the Hawks and was an invaluable resource for a long time.

He was by far the Blackhawks’ best defensive defenseman and one of the best in the league.

Which is probably why Arizona made the trade.

They bring in a great defenseman as well as someone with experience winning. That will be good for their young team.

But why did the Blackhawks make the trade? It seems like Hjalmarsson was too important to give up, plus, Connor Murphy’s 3.85 million dollar contract is just 250K less than Niklas Hjalmarsson’s 4.1.

But Murphy is 6 years younger than Hjalmarsson and signed for three more years. Plus, the Blackhawks also got Dauphin out of the deal.

That’s two good defensive defensemen for the price of one great older one. But let’s look at the stats for this trade, if you’re so far unconvinced.

Niklas Hjalmarsson’s stats the last two years: 7 goals, 35 assists, 42 points, 332 blocks, 21:57 TOI, 50.4 CF%, 92.3 on ice SV%, 56.2 defensive zone shift start percentage.

Connor Murphy’s stats: 8 goals, 26 assists, 34 points, 258 BLK, 19:50 TOI, 46.4 CF%, 92.05 oiSV%, 56.2 def zs%.

Results
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Arizona Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy (5) and Calgary Flames right wing Alex Chiasson (39) battle for the puck (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Murphy had about the same on-ice save percentage without the benefit of Corey Crawford.

He has fewer blocks, but that means less damage. More goals. And about the same defensive zone shifts.

Again, he’s a younger version of Niklas Hjalmarsson who hasn’t played with a defenseman like Duncan Keith.

Those numbers should go up, and Murphy represents something the Blackhawks hadn’t had.

Quality blue-line youth. Now, instead of the three most important Blackhawks defenders being over 30, they’re 33, 32, and 24.

And again, the Blackhawks also brought back a really good prospect in Laurent Dauphin. He’s younger than Ville Pokka and has actually seen ice time in the NHL.

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Apr 17, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left winger Artemi Panarin (72) reacts after a goal during the third period against the Nashville Predators in game three of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin to Columbus

The Chicago Blackhawks just moments after trading Niklas Hjalmarsson traded forward Artemi Panarin to Columbus. Again, it was in exchange mostly for Brandon Saad.

Saad has experience with the Blackhawks – winning the most recent two Blackhawks Cups in Chicago.

This is a fantastic deal for Chicago. A few days after losing Marian Hossa for the year, the Blackhawks brought back a player who is very reminiscent of the demigod.

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Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Brandon Saad (20) carries the puck (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Brandon Saad also elevates Jonathan Toews‘s game.

The last two years Brandon Saad was in Chicago (2013-14, 14-15) Toews had 68 and 66 points, posting 28 goals each time.

Toews and Saad were also an effective playoff threat – in the 2015 cup run, Toews had 21 points, Saad had 11, including 8 goals.

To wake Toews up like that, the Blackhawks should have been willing to pay anything. And they did.

Panarin is an effective left winger, explosive and offensive. The Columbus Blue Jackets got a great player to put on their left side, a player who’s better offensively than Saad.

But Panarin simply could not show up to the playoffs for the Blackhawks. Saad could, Saad did, Saad won two Cups.

And Saad is a year younger, has two more years under contract than Panarin, and will not be due for the same amount of pay raise.

The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets also exchanged other players. The Blackhawks got a fifth round pick and Anton Forsberg, who could be the backup goaltender for the Hawks next year.

The Blue Jackets got forward Tyler Motte, who couldn’t stay in the NHL with the Blackhawks, and a sixth rounder.

In the End

I’m not going to say the Chicago Blackhawks made out like bandits because I have a lot of affection for Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin.

But the Chicago Blackhawks also didn’t make trade mistakes. They didn’t lose the trades, at least not by much, and in fact got younger when they needed to.

The Penguins and Predators both showed how the NHL is going – younger and faster and more scoring.

The Blackhawks, in these trades, responded to that. Jonathan Toews got better. The Chicago Blackhawks filled the void left by Marian Hossa.

They also got a young defenseman, a backup goaltender, and a great defensive prospect when they had none.

Great job, Stan Bowman.

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