Zawaski: Hawks Add Smith, More Cap Flexbility

The Blackhawks traded veteran forward Artem Anisimov to the Senators.

Jay Zawaski
July 16, 2019 - 6:59 pm
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(670 The Score) On Tuesday afternoon, the Blackhawks finally moved veteran forward Artem Anisimov and, more importantly, his $4.55-million cap hit.

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Anisimov was dealt to the Ottawa Senators for forward Zack Smith, who carries a $3.25 million cap, which opens up $1.3 million of extra cap space for the Blackhawks. Smith scored nine goals and had 19 assists in 70 games last season. While he’s not the sexiest player in the world, Smith is certainly an NHL-caliber player who scored 25 goals in the 2015-'16 season.

The most important aspect to note about this deal is that the Hawks moved Anisimov’s deal without moving out an asset like a prospect or a pick. As time had gone on, I thought for sure they’d have to move at least a mid-level prospect to get the deal off the books. In this trade, the Hawks saved some money and received a valuable player in return.

Smith is a bottom-six forward who plays a physical game. 

"Zack brings a different skill set to the table ... something we need a little bit more of," general manager Stan Bowman told reporters Tuesday. "He plays with an edge. It’s his competitive style we liked the most. I think that’s something we probably didn’t have enough of last season."

Bowman went on to mention Smith’s versatility of playing wing and center, though he’s been more of a winger lately.

New assistant coach Marc Crawford helped sell Smith to Bowman. 

"Zack’s a player our scouts have liked for a while," Bowman said. "When Marc came on board, I picked his brain a little bit. He raved about him as a person, as a teammate, as a leader. He loves his style of play too. He thinks that’s something he thinks could enhance our team game."

Where Smith will fit in the Blackhawks' lineup remains to be seen. 

"It’s hard to map out some lines and who’s going to be in what spot, but I think we have different looks we can throw at the other team," Bowman said.

Coach Jeremy Colliton has mentioned several times this offseason the team’s need for more physical players. Smith fills that role, and with the addition of Smith, forward Andrew Shaw and defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta, the Blackahwks have taken steps to address that need.

OBSERVATIONS FROM PROSPECTS CAMP

I attended the Blackhawks' prospects camp Tuesday, and while there were no full scrimmages going on, a few players stood out in some of the more competitive drills. Let's break them down.

Adam Boqvist

With Henri Jokiharju traded to the Buffalo Sabres, Boqvist has catapulted to the Blackhawks' top spot among defensive prospects, and it showed Tuesday. His offensive game has never been in question. He has high-end offensive ability, and it looks like his defensive game is closing the gap.

He was impressive in two-on-one drills and one-on-one. He broke up several rushes, including a victory in a head-to-head matchup with No. 3 overall draft pick Kirby Dach, who was teaming up on a rush with the newly acquired Alex Nylander. 

"I’ve improved my defense," Boqvist said. "I know the last couple of years it wasn’t good. It’s hard to, when you go out there, you have think defense all the time, but it’s in (the back of my head now), so I can just go out there and play the best I can."

Kirby Dach

This may read as a criticism, but it’s not: Dach didn’t flash on the ice the way Patrick Kane did at his first camp.

But watching him in drills, you can see what inspired the Blackhawks to select him at No. 3. He towers over all other prospects (not named Alex Vlasic) and uses his size well. I was impressed with his hands, especially in tight. He showed the ability to stick handle and contain the puck in tight quarters, and he was dominant in front of the net when the opportunities arose. I’m excited to see Dach in scrimmage and preseason game action.

MacKenzie Entwistle

The throw-in the Marian Hossa trade with Arizona last summer, Entwistle has largely flown under the radar for most. But he impressed me at camp last year and did the same Tuesday. Whenever a play was being made, Entwistle seemed to be in the middle of it. I’m not sure he has any one great skill -- like speed, hands, sniping ability, passing -- but he looks to be a balanced player who may have the flexibility to play in any forward role. I see him being a bottom-six forward for the Hawks in a few years.

Philipp Kurashev

Signed in March, Kurashev seems to be another in the lost shuffle of Hawks prospects. He has a lot of skill, and it was on display at camp Tuesday. In one drill, he pulled a puck from his backhand to his forehand between a defender's legs. More impressively, he was a foot from the front of the net. The move freed him from the crease and created a nice scoring chance.

Of course these are just drills, and everyone kind of looks good, but these are the players whom I focused on and who stood out.

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to noon and a columnist for 670 The Score. He's also the co-host of the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or your preferred podcast app. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​​