The latest Chicago Blackhawks trade sent shockwaves through Twitter. For those that didn’t hear, Chicago traded away Nick Schmaltz for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini of the Arizona Coyotes. Outside of yet another trade with the Coyotes (seriously how many is that now), people are pretty split on this deal.
Schmaltz, a first round pick taken in the 2014 draft, was supposed to be the Blackhawks number one center of the future. He was coming off a 52-point season and had started developing serious chemistry with superstar Patrick Kane. However, there were far too many games where he didn’t shoot the puck, and was hesitant to take a hit to make a play, as broadcasters Pat Foley and Eddie Olcyzk lamented about too often.
According to Corey Pronman of The Athletic, Schmaltz rates high in puck skills and vision. He also skates fairly fast, something that Kane has noted on several times. During the preseason, Kane stated, “[Schmaltz] can be a top player in the league. The way he skates, the way he sees the game, the way he can pass the puck, and he’s really got an underrated knack to find open areas and get his one-timer off, too.”
Unfortunately, Schmaltz got off to a slow start, collecting 11 points in 23 games, but only with two goals. According to Scott Powers, also of The Athletic, there could have been some people that were questioning Schmaltz’s overall effort. Once everything was taken into context, it might be a little understandable why Stan Bowman pulled the trigger.
Yes, losing Schmaltz hurts. However, the pieces that are coming back in the trade are tantalizing to say the least. Strome was the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, coming in behind Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid. While he hasn’t had anywhere near the success that the two above players have had, he does have a high ceiling.
Strome has had success, mainly in the AHL, but there is no denying his skillset. While he hasn’t scored much in the NHL, he only has six points in 19 games, he did score 75 points in 35 games in the OHL, and 53 points in 50 games in the AHL last season. The other important note about this trade is that Strome was a teammate of Alex DeBrincat during their Erie Otter days.
Perhaps reuniting Strome with DeBrincat will allow the team to unlock some of Strome’s untapped potential? They had some serious chemistry during their OHL days, and perhaps on a line joined by Kane will allow the Blackhawks to enjoy some more scoring. Sweetening the deal is the fact that Strome has something that very few Blackhawk centers have: a high face-off win percentage.
The other piece in the deal, Perlini, will be able to provide something else the Blackhawks have failed to show this year: depth scoring. Last year, Perlini had 30 points in 74 games, with 17 goals. He is off to a slow start, but the scouts are high on his ability. Essentially, Perlini is going to be a third-line winger that has speed and skill and a decent size.
Both of these players are still on their entry-level contracts, with Strome having one year remaining on his deal and Perlini in the last year of his deal. However, neither are expected to demand a high salary like Schmaltz would have.
Ultimately, this trade was a gamble. Strome and Perlini are not proven NHL players like Schmaltz. All three have their flaws, and ultimately only time will tell if Bowman played his hands right. What Strome has going for him is a reliable number two center, behind Toews, who will most likely be re-united with DeBrincat. Perlini might get inserted into a third line role and provide some size and skill for a Blackhawks team that is desperate to get scoring from their bottom-six. This could be a huge win for the Blackhawks, or it could be another example of Bowman giving up too soon.
My personal belief is that the change of scenery is going to help all three players. Hopefully Strome will just take off being on a line with two players that can shoot the puck wherever they want in Kane and DeBrincat. As for Perlini, hopefully he can find that goal-scoring touch again and provide some depth for Chicago.