Blackhawks expand pool of picks, prospects as Stan Bowman swings 4 deadline tradesBen Popeon April 12, 2021 at 10:51 pm

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman was busy on NHL trade deadline day Monday. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Hawks traded Mattias Janmark for second- and third-round picks, Carl Soderberg for a prospect, Madison Bowey for a pick upgrade and Matthew Highmore for Adam Gaudette.

The Blackhawks were the NHL’s busiest team on deadline day.

General manager Stan Bowman swung four trades Monday to accompany his two trades over the past few weeks, all designed to accumulate as prospects and draft picks as possible.

“We did what we set out to do,” he said. “It’s really consistent with what we’ve been trying to do going back to the offseason: we’re trying to rebuild our asset pool.”

Bowman successfully dealt both of his notable pending unrestricted free agents Monday, trading Mattias Janmark to the Golden Knights and Carl Soderberg to the Avalanche.

The Hawks received two high draft picks — a 2021 second-rounder and 2022 third-rounder — in exchange for Janmark and a 2022 fifth-rounder. The Soderberg trade netted prospect forward Ryder Rolston and minor-leaguer Josh Dickinson.

Bowman also traded twice with the Canucks, swapping bottom-six forwards Matthew Highmore and Adam Gaudette and using defenseman Madison Bowey to upgrade a 2021 fifth-round pick to the fourth round.

Adding in the two earlier trades with the Panthers — which used some depth players and cap space to acquire an intriguing prospect in Henrik Borgstrom as well as three possibly useful NHL guys — Bowman adeptly if quietly improved the Hawks’ future without giving up anything of long-term significance.

“We’re trying to build our team back up,” he said. “We’re taking steps this year by giving young players larger opportunities, and many have really run with it… [And] we’ve brought in some other young players that are not in the league, who are still in juniors or in Europe, but will be trending into the league pretty soon. We want to see how that sorts itself out.”

Breaking down trades

The Janmark trade was Bowman’s biggest and best move Monday.

Janmark had been a decent producer for the Hawks this year, scoring 19 points in 41 games, but his on-ice shot-attempt ratio was the worst on the team. He was never expected to be more than a brief visitor to Chicago.

His value seemed roughly equivalent to a third-round pick entering the day, so to receive a third-round pick and have it be not even the highest selection involved was impressive.

“Mattias has had a very good year for us, so there were a number of teams that were calling on him,” Bowman said. “Ultimately, we found the best deal with Vegas.”

Gaudette is the one asset the Hawks added Monday who fans will see this season. The Hawks view him as the superior player in the like-for-like exchange. He’s one year younger, has played 47 more NHL games and has much more offensive upside than Highmore.

The 24-year-old tallied a sizable 33 points for the Canucks last season, and his struggles this season made him an appealing buy-low candidate. The Hawks also like that he’s a right-handed center — all of their other centers besides Kirby Dach are left-handed.

“We certainly see the potential in what he brings to the table,” Bowman said. “He had a really good year last year. We’re trying to recapture some of that.”

A serious COVID-19 case disrupted his season, but he’s now healthy and should be “all systems go” upon arrival, Bowman said. He will be a restricted free agent this summer but the Hawks will likely re-sign him.

Rolston, meanwhile, is a project prospect. Drafted in the fifth round by the Avs last year, he just finished his freshman year at Notre Dame, where the Hawks saw him often while scouting existing prospect Landon Slaggert.

The son of longtime NHL forward Brian Ralston, he scored only six points in 28 games this season but has raw attributes, especially speed, that fit the NHL prototype.

“When you go to watch Notre Dame play, you’ll notice him,” Bowman said. “He’s a pretty good-sized kid who really can skate. As far as putting the whole game together…there’s more there.”

‘Strange’ NHL market

The Hawks were part of four of the mere 17 trades — the fewest since 2013 — processed around the NHL on Monday. This year’s flat salary cap and relative lack of playoff “bubble” teams reduced the urgency and activity.

Most interestingly, returns didn’t seem to match up from one trade to the next.

The Sabres moved this year’s biggest fish, Taylor Hall, to the Bruins on Sunday for the underwhelming duo of a second-round pick and Anders Bjork. Yet the Red Wings made a late splash Monday by dealing Anthony Mantha to the Capitals for a huge package that included Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik and first- and second-round picks.

“It was a little strange in the sense that some deals didn’t match others,” Bowman said. “And that’s because the teams in [contending] situations were really focused on one or two players.”

Bowman didn’t take on another team’s bad contract (beyond Connolly) for a sweetener, although that could still happen this summer. He also didn’t trade defenseman Nikita Zadorov, whose reported availability created some buzz.

In keeping Zadorov and trading away Bowey — signed in January largely for expansion draft insurance — Bowman signaled the Hawks will almost certainly leave Calvin de Haan exposed to the Seattle Kraken this summer.

And looking ahead to the summer, Bowman foresees more of this maneuvering for the future — but is pleased by the progress made over the past year.

“We have more NHL players today than we did eight months ago,” he said. “Some players that are here now might not be here as we move forward, if we can turn them into something even better or turn them into something we don’t have enough of. This process is ongoing. We’re not moving onto a different stage of our team [evolution]. But I like the direction we’re headed.”

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