In a surprising move, the Chicago Blackhawks traded Nick Schmaltz for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini from the Arizona Coyotes. Although losing a promising young forward that had once been an integral piece of the team’s big picture, the gain may redefine the Hawks’ future.
Giving up Schmaltz was a tough move. Stan Bowman had admitted, “We have to give to get. We’re not going to get two players like that by not trading away a really good player.” It also proved frustrating for Patrick Kane, who had been trying to develop consistent chemistry with Schmaltz. Kane had said, “I really thought, to be honest with you, I really thought that Schmaltz was going to be the next guy that I was going to be able to develop that chemistry with, to be able to produce every night.”
But, in the bigger picture, Schmaltz just wasn’t playing to the full capacity expected of him. After a couple of seasons, he is still consistently shy to shoot, a quality that has become a recurring frustration night after night. It’s concerning when this has always been an issue for Schmaltz, whose Chicago Mission coach, Anders Sorenson, had once said “Nick is a playmaker by nature to the point where you have to beg him to shoot the puck because he does have a very good shot.” A long time issue, Schmaltz may never break this habit, which inevitably made him a movable asset.
As Bowman had said, in order to gain something, upside had to be given up. Unfortunately, it had to be Schmaltz.
Both first round picks in their respective drafts, forwards Perlini and Strome could be the key to creating a consistent, solid offense in the long term. While the previous roster had packed quite a bit of offensive power, there was unfortunately an obvious lack of lateral depth. Scoring was limited almost exclusively to the top six, if not just the top line on some nights.
Acquiring versatile forwards who can move up and down the roster was a move that considers the future. Both players are young and, according to Blackhawks Head Coach Jeremy Colliton, “have quite a bit of untapped potential.” The effect may not be immediate, which will be frustrating in the meantime, but with time it may really solidify the team.
With the Blackhawks’ current defensive issues, many criticized the decision to add forwards, rather than find players to strengthen the blue line. Bowman defended this by pointing out the strong prospect pool of young defenseman coming up through the Blackhawks system. This is not a short term fix, but rather a move for the bigger picture.
Dylan Strome, the 2015 third overall draft pick, is a defensive center whose specialties lie in playmaking, face-offs, and special units, particularly the power play. Heavily decorated, Strome was awarded the 2015 OHL and CHL Top Scoring awards and was invited to last season’s AHL All Star Game.
Although largely criticized as a bust over the past few seasons, Strome has done pretty well when given the chance. His time in Arizona has been somewhat of an anomaly in his overall history. When looking at his successes in junior hockey, international competition, and even the AHL, Strome has always excelled.
Thus, it’s speculated that the problems with Strome are caused by Arizona’s failure to properly develop its young players. If this is the case, the Blackhawks really do have an opportunity to flip Strome into a star player. Known for exemplary player development, the Blackhawks system has always been particularly keen on finding these kinds of players and unlocking their full potential.
We’ve seen this succeed throughout recent Blackhawks history in players like Andrew Shaw, Artemi Panarin, and even Alex DeBrincat. With the first two un-drafted and the latter a heist at 39th overall, the proper work, effort, and hope put into each player had eventually turned them into star players. With an organization that believes in him, Dylan Strome’s redemption arc is perfectly in tune with the Blackhawks style.
Stan Bowman on Dylan Strome: “His talent level in unquestioned, it’s just a matter of putting it together.” #Blackhawks
— Eric Lear (@BHTVeric) November 26, 2018
If all pans out, we can look forward to reuniting Strome with DeBrincat, who was once his linemate on the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. Best friends, the two speak highly of each other, Strome explaining their success because they “built chemistry on and off the ice and had a lot of of fun, a lot of fun scoring goals.”
— Eric Lear (@BHTVeric) November 26, 2018
If their chemistry can be reignited, they will most definitely be a force to be reckoned with. Whispers of a second line with DeBrincat, Strome, and Kane are an exciting possibility that would be incredibly fun to watch.
The other component to this transaction and perhaps a little overshadowed by Strome in this trade, Brendan Perlini was a 2014 first round draft pick. Putting up 30 points last season (17G, 13A), Perlini is a solid winger best known for speed and shooting ability.
As of late, Perlini had been skating on Arizona’s top lines and on the power play units. With size and speed on his side, Perlini is a strong forward that plays with a lot of power and strength that the Blackhawks need right now.
His versatility will by key in fine-tuning the Blackhawks’ offense. If his skill can translate to this team, he will be the piece that generates depth and enriches the bottom six. Since the offense has been particularly shallow as of late, especially with Colliton putting both Toews and Kane on the same line, adding in scoring depth is absolutely essential to the future prosperity of this team.
Following practice, Patrick Kane had admitted to watching Sunday night’s match between the Arizona Coyotes and the Calgary Flames. Kane had praised Perlini, saying “I actually watched that game last night… I thought Perlini was probably the best player for Arizona.” Although still reeling from the loss of Schmaltz, Kane has high hopes for the newly acquired forwards.
If everything goes according to plan, Strome and Perlini will have clear roles on this team and the Blackhawks will have won this trade. While losing Nick Schmaltz is a huge blow in the short term, the promise of what the Blackhawks might have in the future is worth the risk. With this organization’s capabilities and history with shaping players, there is a lot to look forward to.
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