As with any trade, the one made last night, that sent Nick Schmaltz to Arizona for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini will not be fully assessed until a few years from now. People will look at point totals (achieved in entirely different contexts), where the respective teams finish, etc. And some of that may be accurate.
But this move made sense for the Blackhawks on numerous levels. And for a team that’s 9-10-4, where Schmaltz was failing to deliver what the front office and coaching staff had been counting on from him, it’s hard to see a downside right now.
Further, this trade signals that Bowman, instead of arrogantly, defiantly doubling down on his bad bets (as he has in the past), stepped up and corrected his own mistake (ie, pinning the future of the franchise on the unreliable, questionably committed Schmaltz).
Here’s a point by point as to why this trade works for the Hawks.
- Strome fills a need
If you’ve been reading our analysis pieces here, following us on Twitter, or listening to the RinkCast, you know we, at least, have been saying that another legitimate NHL center has been as big a need as any on the Hawk roster. Make no mistake, Strome has not really lived up to sky-high draft billings yet either.
But Strome, at just 21, is a legitimate NHL center. Schmaltz wasn’t, and probably never will be. The differences between Strome and Schmaltz—good and bad—are pretty stark. Where Schmaltz is blazing fast but seems allergic to contact and going into high traffic situations, Strome is pretty much the opposite—not a great skater, but big and more willing and able to create offense in the tough going. Schmaltz was 40% on faceoffs last year, Strome was 58%. And, like Schmaltz, Strome has offensive upside that will be somewhat more fulfilled playing with the likes of Patrick Kane and/or Alex DeBrincat.
Strome’s profile as a legitimate center, and his faceoff ability also takes some situational faceoff and TOI pressure off of one Jonathan Toews—and historically this has elevated Toews’ game.
2. Schmaltz needed to go
It’s one thing when a player is trying but underperforming. But Schmaltz’ shortcomings were never due to a lack of talent, rather to a lack of heart and willingness. Sure, somewhat like Teuvo Teravainen after he was dealt to Carolina, Schmaltz may grow up and see the light in the desert, and more fully realize his talents. But no one knows him, his off-ice habits and his character, like the Chicago Blackhawks do. And while we’ve heard a few things here and there here at The-Rink, and probably not enough to present a fully damning picture, we heard enough, and saw enough in terms of Schmaltz not making basic, cost of entry plays in order to avoid contact, to say that his coaches and teammates probably, privately felt a change was needed. Nothing kills morale quite so much as a teammate to whom much is given, and much is expected—and much is left wanting.
3. The money
Another issue with Schmaltz was a looming issue over his value on his next contract. At one point, fans and writers (at the very least) had jacked him up to being a $6 million a year player. This was always probably nonsense, and in the early parts of this season, as Schmaltz continually failed to meet small, but important metrics on the ice (Can he play center? No. Has he acquired more of a nose for high traffic areas and physical play? No. Will he shoot the puck? No), it’s become more and more clear that paying Schmaltz anywhere close to that kind of money for any kind of term could have been a huge waste of valuable cap space.
4. The math
In Strome and Perlini, the Hawks acquired two young, legitimate NHL players of some value, and at least one of them has upside that could be significant in Chicago. They gave up one. This is important because the Hawks need building blocks right now—not aging lineup patches. Here at The-Rink, we’ve been making the case for trading veterans (including Schmaltz if the return was right) for high end prospects and draft picks. the return on this deal, while not exactly that, is nonetheless heading in that direction. Strome especially, and possibly Perlini as well, have to be seen as potential pieces of a downstream Hawk resurgence, not just “guys” to prop up a flawed roster this year—though both may help for the above reasons this season.
Perlini is a guy the Hawks liked in his draft year—and if I had to provide a quick scouting report, he is the kind of guy the Capitals and Preds have drafted and developed in recent years. Big, physically willing, and good enough to pitch in some offense at the NHL level.
5. Bowman has learned
On our last RinkCast, we talked about the mark of a good GM. All GMs make mistakes. The good ones recognize and correct them fairly quickly. Bowman has done that here. We can all debate whether the team cut bait on Schmaltz too soon, and time will tell, but clearly, perhaps no Hawk player or prospect has fallen from grace more quickly—and certainly there were fairly obvious reasons for it. Just go back and listen to Eddie Olczyk’s commentary on various Schmaltz plays (and non-plays) this season.