Two of the biggest things Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has an affinity for are reclamation projects like Anthony Duclair, Dylan Strome and Alexander Nylander, and bringing back ex-Blackhawks. We saw it with Brian Campbell, Marcus Kruger, Johnny Oduya, Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp. Now you can add Andrew Shaw to that list.
Blackhawks Acquire a “More Mature” Shaw
On June 30, the Blackhawks reacquired Shaw from the Montreal Canadiens, along with a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, in exchange for a second- and seventh-round pick in 2020 and 2021’s third-round pick. This move came just over three years after he was moved to Montreal for a pair of second-round picks that became Alex DeBrincat and Chad Krys.
The Canadiens signed Shaw to a six-year, $23.4-million contract shortly after the trade. The Blackhawks will inherit the final three years of that deal. Shaw had 41 goals and 96 points in 182 games for the Habs. He is coming off a season in which he set career highs in assists (28) and points (47).
Shaw has had a knack of scoring big goals in his career, but he has also had trouble with taking dumb penalties, especially in the offensive zone. Now 28, Shaw believes that he has learned his lessons and it shows on the ice.
“I think as a man I’ve matured more and know what it takes to be even a better pro than I’ve been in the past,” Shaw told the Chicago media shortly after learning he was coming back to the Blackhawks. “I had some success at working hard and competing (with) that mindset of never giving up, not letting people put you down and just pushing through physical (and) mental exhaustion or pain.”
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Shaw has always been a favorite with the Blackhawks, both within the locker room and in the seats. Even well after he was traded to Montreal, you still saw plenty of No. 65 jerseys walking through the concourse at the United Center.
“I’m excited to come back to Chicago,” Shaw continued. “(It is) a city where I grew up, it helped mold me to what I am, it’s a blue-collar type of town. They’ve loved me since the day I started there so I’m excited to get back and play in front of them and give them everything I have.”
The Blackhawks know exactly what they are going to get out of Shaw. He is a guy who can play up and down the lineup. He rarely takes a shift off and gives you that “jam” or “grit” that you still need, albeit in smaller doses, in today’s game. Shaw will also score those ugly goals by getting to the front of the net and paying the price to get the puck behind the opposing goaltender. This is something Bowman admitted that the Blackhawks were missing a season ago.
“It’s something we probably weren’t as strong at last year as we had hoped,” Bowman said. “We did score a lot of highlight-type goals and a lot of transition goals and I think Andrew can help us score some of the other goals that you need to if you’re going to be competitive come playoff time. That’s getting to the front of the net, staying there, second-chance opportunities, screens, those types of things.”
Shaw’s Deal Has Improved Over Time
The Blackhawks tried to find someone to fill the toughness and “greasy goal” role Shaw left behind. They hoped that Ryan Hartman and John Hayden could fill that void, but neither was up to the task and both were eventually traded.
Shaw’s $3.9 million salary-cap hit is not as bad as it was when he signed his contract in the summer of 2016. The market has adjusted and he is now being paid about what a player of his skill set and production should be. Take a look at what teams shelled out for these types of players during free agency and you’ll realize that Shaw’s value increased as the market shifted.
The Pittsburgh Penguins gave Brandon Tanev a six-year, $21-million contract in July. While they are just about the same age, Shaw has had much better production; granted, that’s in over 300 more NHL games. In 504 career games, Shaw has averaged 0.46 points per game (PPG), while Tanev is a 0.26 PPG guy in 195 games. Ask yourself who would you rather have; Shaw at $3.9 million for three seasons or Tanev at $3.5 million for the next six seasons?
Can Shaw Stay in the Lineup?
The biggest concern about Shaw going forward is his health. His style of play has put a lot of miles on his body and has prevented him from playing quite a bit of hockey the last couple of seasons. During his three-year stint with the Canadiens, Shaw missed 64 games. This came after he missed nine games combined in his first four full seasons with the Blackhawks.
When healthy, Shaw can play on any line. He can be used in the top six and on the power play to stand in front of the net and create space for the goal scorers. He can also play on the bottom six and provide some energy and toughness while giving the Blackhawks more secondary scoring. Former head coach Joel Quenneville loved to use Shaw with his skill players, but we shall see if head coach Jeremy Colliton has this same approach.