This will be the final post of the “Meet the New Blackhawks” offseason series, unless general manager Stan Bowman decides to make more moves before training camp starts on Sept. 15. We will combine the final two additions into one post.
Bowman Finally Moves Anisimov For Smith
One of the biggest tasks Bowman wanted to complete this offseason was to find a trade partner for Artem Anisimov and the remainder of his contract. On July 16, Anisimov was traded to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Zack Smith.
Smith, 31, is a veteran of 612 career NHL games, all with the Senators. He has served as an alternate captain for each of the last two seasons. He scored nine goals and posted a career-high 19 assists in 70 games last season.
This move did not provide the salary cap relief that many had hoped trading Anisimov would. Smith is signed through the 2020-21 season, as is Anisimov, with a salary-cap hit of $3.25 million per season. This saves the Blackhawks $1.3 million over each of the next two seasons with Anisimov’s $4.55 million cap hit headed to Ottawa.
The Senators gave Smith big payday in the summer of 2017 by signing him to his current four-year/$13 million contract. The deal came on the heels of scoring 25 goals in the 2015-16 season and following that up with another 16 tallies in 2016-17. However, he has a total of just 14 goals in the 138 games since cashing in on his offensive surge.
Smith will be a welcomed addition to the Blackhawks penalty kill unit, which was the worst in the entire league last season. He averaged 1:49 of shorthanded ice time for the Senators in 2019-20. He has 14 career shorthanded goals, including nine between 2015 and 2017.
The Blackhawks will also improve at the faceoff dot with Smith on board as he boasts a career 50.7 faceoff win percentage (FO%). Add him to the mix with fellow newcomer Ryan Carpenter, who had a 52.6 FO% with the Vegas Golden Knights last season, and Jonathan Toews should get plenty of help in the faceoff department.
While Smith is very good at winning faceoffs, he can also play the wing. Look for Smith and Carpenter to form and tandem on the fourth line, with both players able to win a key defensive zone draw in tight games.
“I feel more comfortable at center, but I think I’ve had more success playing the wing,” Smith said shortly after being acquired by the Blackhawks. “What has kind of benefitted me this far is being able to play both positions. I guess the most ideal situation is to play wing and still take draws. I still enjoy taking draws – I feel that’s one of my strong suits.
“I’m just excited beyond words to be playing for Chicago, so if they want to put me in goal or on ‘D,’ I’d be happy with that too, (But) center or wing is fine with me.”
More Defensive Depth Added with Holm
Bowman made a late-summer addition to the roster when he signed defenseman Philip Holm on Aug. 13. His deal is a one-year, two-way contract that is worth $700,000. Holm, 27, is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound, left-handed defenseman from Stockholm, Sweden.
He was originally signed by the Vancouver Canucks in May of 2017. He played in one NHL game for the Canucks on Feb. 23, 2018. Three days after making his debut against the Golden Knights, he was traded to Vegas and spent the rest of the season with the Chicago Wolves. He scored 11 goals and 29 points in 42 games with the Utica Comets, leading all defenders in scoring. Holm had a goal and nine points in 21 games with the Wolves while adding a goal and an assist in their three playoff games.
Following his lone season in North America, Holm signed with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in the KHL. He scored seven goals and 26 points during the regular season and was selected to play in the KHL All-Star Game. He contributed a goal and five points in seven playoff games. He was also part of Sweden’s 2017 IIHF World Championship team, which won the gold medal.
A quick look at the stats and you can see the Holm can add some offensive from the back end, but he is not just a one-trick pony.
“Philip Holm is a defenseman who plays a well-rounded game,” Erik K. Piri wrote in his scouting report for Elite Prospects. “Owns excellent mobility and a good first pass. Can play a physical game at times, too.”
The Blackhawks top-six defensemen seem to be locked in heading into camp, but Holm could make a run at earning the seventh blue line spot. He will challenge Carl Dahlstrom and Slater Koekkoek to make the final cut as all three players are left-handed shots. If he doesn’t make the team, he will add some experience and scoring to the Rockford IceHogs’ defensive corps.
Will Busy Offseason Lead to a Postseason Run?
Bowman had a very busy summer after missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second straight season. Overall, many feel he did a pretty good job of adding to and improving the roster.
“I think we’ve filled in the areas of concern from last year,” Bowman said. “There have been a number of moves over the last four or five weeks – some signings (and) some trades. When you add it all up, I think our team looks better now than it did. But training camp will show where that shakes out. I like where our team looks right now, though.”
Time will tell if this current roster is good enough to return to the postseason. In an offseason where many of the teams in the Central Division chose not to make any big moves, things may just work out for the Blackhawks.