It has been a crazy few days for the Chicago Blackhawks. It all started by trading Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers. After that, Seth Jones was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets and signed to an eight-year contract extension (which was made official today). On Tuesday, they acquired goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights, then traded Brent Seabrook’s contract to the Tampa Bay Lightning for center Tyler Johnson and a second-round draft.
Did you get all that? Well, free agency opened today at 11 am and the transactions kept coming. There were more changes made to the blue line and some physicality was added to the bottom half of the roster.
Nikita Zadorov Traded to the Calgary Flames
It has been no secret that general manager Stan Bowman wanted to trade Zadorov. He was shopped at the trade deadline during the season and again before last week’s Expansion Draft. He was left unprotected for said draft but was not taken by the Seattle Kraken. The 26-year-old defenseman was extended a qualifying offer on Tuesday so the team could retain his rights.
Just before free agency opened, Bowman finally found a dance partner. Zadorov was traded to the Flames for a third-round pick in 2022. It was the pick Calgary acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs last season for goaltender David Rittich.
Zadorov’s lone season in Chicago was a roller coaster. While he did provide the physical edge the team needed, he was caught out of position too many times. He finished the season with a goal, seven assists, 190 hits, and a 40.6 Corsi for percentage (CF%) in 55 games. There has been no word of a new contract with the Flames.
Jake McCabe Added to the Blue Line
Bowman continued to bolster the defense by signing McCabe to a four-year contract worth a total of $16 million. The 27-year-old, left-handed defenseman has spent his entire career with the Buffalo Sabres. He has 18 goals and 77 points in 353 career NHL games and is widely respected as a very good defender. His 2020-21 season was limited to just 13 games due to a knee injury. His defensive metrics are very good despite playing on some bad teams the last few seasons.
McCabe was born in Eau Claire, WI and his wife is from Downers Grove, IL, so they are both excited about moving to Chicago. He spoke to the local media and he is not worried about the injury that ended his season early.
“No, I got zero concerns,” McCabe said “My rehab’s gone very, very well. The last month on the ice has gone really, really well, too. A lot of guys have had an ACL injury in hockey and come back even stronger. I got no doubt in my mind that my level will be even higher.”
There is little doubt the Blackhawks’ defense has vastly improved over the past few days. It will be interesting to see what happens to Calvin de Haan, who is reportedly available on the trade market.
Jujhar Khaira Lands in Chicago
In addition to the moves on the back end, Bowman added to the depth up front too. He inked Khaira to a two-year contract worth $975,000 per season. The 26-year-old had three goals and 11 points in 40 games for the Oilers last season. He has played in 258 NHL games, scoring 24 goals and 63 points.
Khaira can play both center and the wing. The offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, but you don’t bring him for scoring. He instantly replaces the physicality lost with the Zadorov trade. At 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, he brings a meanness to the ice to go along with his large frame. He had 151 hits in 40 games last season and has dished out 587 in his career, an average of 2.27 per game. He is just the third player of Punjabi descent to play in the NHL, joining Robin Bawa and Manny Malholtra.
Odds & Ends
While the Blackhawks made some more additions and still await word from Fleury about his future, some now-former Blackhawks found new homes. David Kampf signed a two-year contract with the Maple Leafs with a $1.5 million AVV. After losing McCade, the Sabres signed a pair of former Blackhawks. Vinnie Hinostroza got a one-year deal worth $1.05 million and Drake Caggiula signed on for the 2021-22 season at $750,000. There has yet to be word on where Pius Suter is landing, but he has plenty of suitors.
It is quite obvious that Bowman has switched gears from rebuild to retool. He has improved the team over the past week, especially if Fleury actually plays. He has made moves like a general manager whose job security depends on a successful 2021-22 season. This, in turn, puts tremendous pressure on head coach Jeremy Colliton, who has a team good enough to compete for a playoff spot. If they stumble out of the game, it might cost him his job.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.