CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks on Friday traded left wing Artemi Panarin, forward Tyler Motte and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft to the Columbus Blue Jackets for former Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad, goalie Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round pick in 2018.
They also traded defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.
“We’ve still got an incredible core of players here that have accomplished an awful lot together,” said general manager Stan Bowman, who promised to shake up the Blackhawks roster after they were swept by the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round. “I think they can get energized by having some of these young guys. We’re looking for that spark to achieve even more things down the road.
“Change is not always easy, but I think it’s necessary and I think we’re looking forward.”
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The trades come after the Blackhawks lost two players earlier this week. Right wing Marian Hossa is out for the season because of a progressive skin disorder, and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday.
Reacquiring Saad, who was traded to the Blue Jackets on June 30, 2015, offsets the loss of Hossa, his former linemate in Chicago. Murphy, a 24-year old defenseman with a right-hand shot, will replace van Riemsdyk and helps balance out the Blackhawks’ defense pairs.
The trades also bring some cost certainty against the NHL salary cap.
Murphy has five years left on his contract, which carries a $3.85 million salary-cap charge, according to CapFriendly.com, and Saad has four years left on his contract, which carries a $6 million charge.
Forsberg, 24, can become a restricted free agent July 1, and Dauphin, 22, has one year left on his entry-level contract, which has a cap charge of $745,000.
Hjalmarsson has two years left on his contract, with a $4.1 million cap charge. Panarin, who was undrafted, signed a two-year, $7 million contract with Chicago on April 29, 2015, according to CapFriendly.com. On Dec. 28, he signed a two-year, $12 million contract that runs through the 2018-19 season.
“It’s a challenge when you have contracts that you know are going to be expiring in a year or two, and those guys are going to be due for some pay increases,” Bowman said. “At that time, you’re looking around and figuring out how you’re going to replace those players.”
Hjalmarsson, 30, played 10 seasons with Chicago, which took him in the fourth round (No. 108) in the 2005 draft. He had 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 73 games this season.
In 623 NHL games, Hjalmarsson has 143 points (23 goals, 120 assists). He was scoreless in four Stanley Cup Playoff games this year but has 28 points (two goals, 26 assists) in 128 NHL postseason games. He helped the Blackhawks win the Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Panarin, 25, was second on the Blackhawks in goals (31) and points (74) this season behind Patrick Kane (34 goals, 89 points), and was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team.
“Brandon Saad is a really good hockey player, a really good person, but to bring in a dynamic guy like [Panarin], I think is very important,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “He likes scoring goals, and I want to let him go. I don’t want to get in his way. I want him to bring that type of play to us.”
Panarin won the Calder Trophy as the League’s top rookie in 2015-16, when he had 77 points (30 goals, 47 assists) in 82 games.
“There’s no doubt, it was very difficult [trading him],” Bowman said. “The same thing with Niklas Hjalmarsson. I mean, he’s the consummate professional. I don’t think you’re going to meet a more low-maintenance, team-oriented player than Niklas. All he cares about is winning and doing whatever the team needs to win. Trust me, those are some difficult phone calls to make.”
Panarin found out about the trade shortly before leaving on a fishing trip to a remote part of Russia, according to his agent, Dan Milstein. Panarin and Milstein were surprised by the news.
“We had a great relationship with Stan Bowman and the organization,” Milstein said. “The last contract that was signed was quick and painless, and Artemi never had any issues or concerns [about] the team. It’s just part of the business, and he looks forward to the next challenge.”
Saad, 24, had 53 points (24 goals, 29 assists) in 82 games with the Blue Jackets this season and three points (one goal, two assists) in five playoff games.
Saad was selected by Chicago in the second round (No. 43) of the 2011 draft and won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015. In 368 games with the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks, Saad has 232 points (107 goals, 125 assists).
“It was definitely pretty shocking, but it is very exciting, obviously, to be back and to be a Chicago Blackhawk,” Saad said. “I heard this morning, and it was definitely shocking to me. It’s exciting to be back somewhere I’m comfortable and somewhere I know, and to be with an organization that has had success.”
Motte had seven points (four goals, three assists) in 33 games as a rookie with the Blackhawks this season. Forsberg played in one game with the Blue Jackets and was 27-17-4-2 with a 2.28 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and four shutouts with Cleveland of the American Hockey League.
Bowman said Forsberg will get the first chance to back up Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford, filling a void left by the departure of Scott Darling, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on April 28.