When the NHL free-agent frenzy rolled around on July 1st, the Blackhawks weren’t expected to shock the world with a big-name signing. Stan Bowman had already gone the trade route to add blue liners Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan in addition to bringing back Andrew Shaw to help the forward corps. The Hawks general manager made it clear during a conference call to discuss the acquisition of Shaw that he would mainly be targeting depth forwards in free agency.
Bowman did just that last Monday morning when he inked Ryan Carpenter to a three-year ($1 million AAV) deal. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Who is Ryan Carpenter and what will he bring to the team?” Luckily, that’s exactly what I’m here to explore.
Ryan Carpenter is a 28-year-old center who spent the last two seasons with the Vegas Golden Knights. He stands six feet tall, weighs in at 200 lbs, and carries a right-handed shot. The Bowling Green State University alumnus went undrafted out of college, but the San Jose Sharks signed him as a free agent on March 26, 2014. He only played 28 games for San Jose from 2015-2017 before being placed on waivers. The Golden Knights claimed Carpenter on December 13, 2017. After being eased into the lineup, his ice time gradually increased and he fit in nicely with the group of “Golden Misfits” during their inaugural season.
Carpenter isn’t going to light up the score sheet on a nightly basis, as you can see from his career stats:
However, he provides a much-needed boost at the dot. Carpenter has hovered around a 50% faceoff percentage throughout his time in the league and improved to a career-best 52.6% last season. The Hawks ranked 19th overall in team faceoff percentage (49.5%) last season, so he will be a welcome addition up the middle. Carpenter also figures to be a major piece of the penalty kill for the next three years after the team let Marcus Kruger walk in free agency. The Blackhawks ranked dead last while shorthanded in 2018-19, killing only 72.7% of penalties. Carpenter logged 85+ minutes on the penalty kill last season, and I would expect that figure to jump in the coming years.
Numbers are great to analyze, but they don’t always tell the full story. Now it’s time for the fun part: the eye test. While watching Vegas games over the past two seasons, my biggest takeaway from Ryan Carpenter is that he’s tough to play against. He embraces his role as a defensive-minded center and doesn’t give up on plays. In the video below, you can see Carpenter shadow Mikael Granlund for over 15 seconds, prevent the Wild from setting up their offense, and eventually win the puck back to his teammate behind the net:
Though he is mainly a defensive specialist, Carpenter also has a decent set of hands and an ability to be creative in the offensive zone. Check out the goals below you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Here, Carpenter dances through a maze of Coyotes defenders to snipe home one of his two career shorthanded goals:
In this next clip, he floats to the front of the net while Tomas Hyka looks for an opening. Carpenter then separates from the defender to find a bit of space, collects the loose puck, and buries a no-look backhander:
Ryan Carpenter loves to play around the net, whether that be out in front or down below. In the next highlight, he finds the soft area when Duncan Keith moves out to play the puck and then catches Jeff Glass sleeping by beating him on a stuff attempt from the goal line:
The statheads may want to overlook this next category, but I think it needs to be addressed. If you watched the Blackhawks closely over the past two seasons, it’s no secret they lacked a certain “edge” to their game. There is no doubt in my mind that Ryan Carpenter will help bring that element back to the Hawks. He may only be six feet tall, but he doesn’t let that stop him from mixing things up. In the video below, Carpenter goes after 6’3″ Winnipeg center Mark Scheifele in a scrum around the net. When the going got rough against a tough Jets team in the 2018 Western Conference Final, Carpenter made it known that he and the Golden Knights weren’t afraid to get physical:
Speaking of getting physical, Ryan Carpenter will drop the gloves if needed. In the video below, Mathew Dumba takes a run at Erik Haula, prompting Carpenter to stick up for his teammate:
Back in his AHL days with the Sharks organization, Carpenter took exception to a hit against a teammate and put up a solid fight:
To be clear, no one is expecting Ryan Carpenter to be an “enforcer” type. Andrew Shaw will likely have the lengthiest fight card of any Hawks skater in the coming seasons. I just wanted to highlight Carpenter’s toughness because he can help the Blackhawks regain that aforementioned “edge.”
As always, only time will tell if this ends up being a good signing for the Blackhawks. Just looking at the term length and annual average value for what Ryan Carpenter will bring to the table, it’s a low-risk move that should help the Hawks not only on the ice but on the books as well. Welcome to Chicago, Ryan!
Featured Photo: NHL.com