Are the Blackhawks still contenders?

Eduardo Monk Jr

The Chicago Blackhawks have had a rough week. On the 21st of June, they lost the left wing demigod Marian Hossa for the entire upcoming season due to an allergic reaction to his equipment. Yeah. Weird. Then only two days later, they traded both fan favorite and totally solid defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and rising star Artemi Panarin to the Arizona Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets respectively.

However this week hasn’t been as rough for Chicago sports as it may appear. As odd as it may sound with the seemingly stretched talent on the roster, the Hawks are still top contenders for the Cup. And it all comes down to what they got in return.

Let’s start with the Hjalmarsson deal. Throughout his career, he has been one of the most consistent defenseman and still found ways to shine on a roster playing along All-Star regular Brent Seabrook and the Norris winning Duncan Keith. And coming off a generally solid year, it was quite the surprise to see him flipped for the young defenseman Connor Murphy and center Laurent Dauphin from the Coyotes.

Murphy is easily the most exciting part of this deal, as he is still 24 years old and is coming off a season where he dropped 17 points in 77 games on a team with 30 wins. He’s a mobile shot blocker with a rare offensive knack. He has a ton of upside and could turn out to be a top 4 defenseman and replace Hjalmarsson altogether.

For Dauphin, he only had three points in this previous season but consider he’s 22 and appeared in 24 games. With a lot of room to grow, he could blossom into a solid top 6 forward in his career.

To obtain a couple of two players with a ton upside for just a 30 year old defenseman is a smart move right now. Yeah, they won’t be able to contribute much as of right now but wait a couple of seasons and these two could be great role players, necessary cogs on a Cup caliber team.

Now for the elephant in the room-the Saad deal. Hawks fans got a happily a little teary-eyed seeing the Hawks bought back the beloved Brandon Saad until they noticed who they gave up. Artemi Panarin won the Calder and an All-Star only a season apart. Him, Kane and Artem Anisimov make up one of the deadliest lines in hockey. But not anymore.

On paper (Panarin and Tyler Motte for Saad and picks) seems like a risky deal. The Bread Man is nearly Saad levels of talent and he’s been in the league for much less time. He is still developing and could be an extremely good player one day. But consider this. Panarin is 25 years of age since he played the majority of his pro hockey career in his homeland of Russia. Saad is only 24 years old with two Cups and an All-Star berth under his belt already.

If anyone is still developing, it’s Brandon Saad. We have seen how pivotal he can be in both of his Cup wins, a game changer the Blackhawks have lacked in years past since he was moved to Columbus. Brandon Saad is a much better defensive player and can contribute on the offensive side just as much as Panarin can. And he’s a whole year younger than him.

Saad’s defensive talent was a massive reason the Hawks were able to pull off two Cup runs in his time in the Windy City. And now with him back, that Saad-size hole is officially filled. Jonathan Toews finally has a talented winger back on the first line with him, something that has handicapped his production for the past two seasons.

So in the end, this week hasn’t been that rough. They got a lot of young talent for the aging Hjalmarsson and the legend Brandon Saad was brought back to do exactly what the Blackhawks have needed since his departure. Any team with Kane and Toews on it can’t fail, and reuniting them with the vital defensive talent of Saad can potentially put this team over the top this season.

Fear not Hawks fan. Stan Bowman knew what he was doing on this one.

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