On this day one year ago, the Blackhawks and Coyotes completed a trade that sent minor shock waves through the NHL. The official trade was announced on the evening of November 25, 2018, stating the Chicago Blackhawks traded forward Nick Schmaltz to the Arizona Coyotes for forwards Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini.
At the time of the trade, it was a story of underachievement for all parties involved. All three players involved in the deal were first-round picks.
Underachievement. That was only one of many words that could have been used to describe the trade. It began to feel like a soap opera. The number one sons, the children cast away by their parents as disappointments, the story could be spun in enough ways to air the program on daytime television after an episode of All My Children. Another set of words that was very applicable to apply to this deal was “fresh start.”
In this article, we will analyze each of the “actors” in our soap opera before the trade, and ultimately, analyze the trade in a bit of “too soon” format.
Nick Schmaltz was drafted 20th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. When taken, the forward from Madison, Wisconsin was viewed as the next great forward for the Blackhawks. He had the speed, the vision, and ultimately addressed the infamous hole of the magical Stanley Cup runs, he could be a top-six center.
Schmaltz starred for the USHL Green Bay Gamblers for two seasons before the Blackhawks selected him with their first pick in the 2014 draft. The Blackhawks traded with the San Jose Sharks to move up to #20 overall and take the promising center. After being drafted, Schmaltz went to play for the North Dakota University Fighting Hawks (formerly the Fighting Sioux) for two seasons, winning an NCAA National Championship in 2016 as a sophomore.
Following his sophomore season, Schmaltz signed a three-year contract with the Blackhawks and turned pro. The 20-year-old center made his debut on October 12, 2016, and scored his first goal on October 15 of the same year.
However, it wasn’t a perfect season. Schmaltz didn’t get much ice time, was sent down to AHL Rockford for a month and a half mid-season, and was eventually recalled, finishing his rookie campaign on a higher note than it started.
Year two presented a different story, Schmaltz became a 50-point player, played lots of minutes in the top-six, and began looking like the player the Blackhawks and their fans dreamed of when he was drafted. He switched between center and wing but was still an effective player in his second year.
In 2018, Schmaltz looked more like his rookie self than a third-year player. He registered 11 points in 23 games with the Blackhawks to begin the season, raising questions about whether he could handle the pressure, whether he could be a top-six center, and ultimately, whether he was worth a large extension to stick around.
Rather than any of those questions being addressed by the Blackhawks, Stan Bowman pulled the trigger on the deal, sending Nick Schmaltz to Arizona.
The 2015 NHL Entry Draft was loaded with talent. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were the top-two picks in that draft, with other notables NHLers such as Mitch Marner, Noah Hanifin, Zach Werenski, Ivan Provorov, Mikko Rantanen, Brock Boeser, Thomas Chabot, Mathew Barzal, and many more being selected in the first round. It’s safe to say this is one of the best draft classes of the last five years.
Strome was selected third overall in that draft by the Arizona Coyotes. Before Marner, before Rantanen, before Boeser, and all three of those players burst on to the scene sooner than the third overall pick. Strome was a dominant player in juniors, being the second-best player on his junior team (only Connor McDavid was better that season).
Strome’s draft year began with a seven-game tryout with the Coyotes. After only one assist with his draft team, Strome was sent back to Erie where he had yet another great season with the Otters, playing a lot of time with friend and teammate Alex DeBrincat, who was entering his draft year in 2016. Strome had 75 points in only 35 games with the Otters in 2016.
In 2017, Strome only played in the NHL for 21 games, registering nine points with four of those points being goals. In the AHL, Strome was better than a point per game with 53 points in 50 games.
In 2018, it was a similar story for Strome. While many of the other 2015 draftees were thriving in the NHL, Strome was relegated to the fourth line in Arizona, only registering six points in 20 games to begin the campaign. However, on November 28th of that season, Strome was officially dealt to Chicago with Brendan Perlini.
Brendan Perlini was the 14th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, selected six picks ahead of Nick Schmaltz. Perlini registered 60 points in 43 games before being drafted.
In 2015, Perlini was returned to the OHL, having a bit of a down season for an over-ager. After 45 points in 57 games, Perlini earned himself a trip to the AHL in 2016 in the brand new Tuscon Roadrunners.
With the Roadrunners, Perlini scored 14 goals and added five assists in just 17 games before being recalled by the Coyotes. In 57 games his rookie year, Perlini added another 14 goals.
Year two with the Coyotes was a solid season for Perlini. After proving he was more of a goal scorer than a playmaker, Perlini posted a 17-goal season with the Coyotes while having 30 points in 74 games. It seemed that Perlini may have carved out a role to be a sniper in the NHL.
However, year three was a bit different. Through 22 games, Perlini only tallied six points, not proving to be on the same scoring pace as the two seasons before. Rather than receiving an extended chance in the desert, Perlini was dealt with Strome to Chicago.
After the trade, all three players seemed to adjust well to the move initially. Schmaltz had 14 points in 17 games before missing the rest of the season with an injury, Strome tallied 51 points in 58 games while being paired on a line with his buddy Alex DeBrincat, and Perlini scored 12 goals in 46 games, consistent with his rookie season numbers back in Arizona. It seemed that everyone was going to be well off.
Fast forward to 2019. As of this morning, Schmaltz is pacing the Coyotes with 19 points in 25 games and Strome is currently third on the Blackhawks with 17 points in 23 games. Both players are continuing the hot streaks they enjoyed last season.
Unfortunately for Perlini, things didn’t work out in Chicago. After signing a low-value one-year deal, Perlini barely saw playing time and was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings. In 14 games with the Red Wings, Perlini has only registered one assist. It seems he simply cannot find a consistent role and playing time with anyone. His future remains to be seen going forward. In return for Perlini, the Hawks acquired defensive prospect Alec Regula.
WHO WON THE TRADE?
Ah yes, the magic question. Who won the trade? Well, it is still early. Strome and Schmaltz, the focal points of the trade, the lead actors in our soap opera, still have a lot of hockey ahead of them. It’s safe to say Perlini may as well. That said, it may be too early to definitively say who won this trade. However, as of today, I’d have to say it was a win for both teams.
The Blackhawks acquired their second-line center who can truly compliment Jonathan Toews. Not only that, but they also found a dynamic duo for the franchise’s future. There is no denying that Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome have some of the best chemistry in the NHL. Combine that with Patrick Kane and the Hawks have arguably one of the best lines in hockey.
The Blackhawks could win the trade if Regula becomes an NHL regular. Although Perlini simply didn’t fit into the 2019 lineup, he is still a good player that can hopefully find a home somewhere in the NHL.
As of today, both teams involved in the original deal have won. They both received something they needed and have found two pieces that are expected to be a part of their futures for years and years to come.
On this day one year ago, the trade of underachievement was made. Now, the primary players in the trade are thriving in their new settings, turning into the golden sons they were expected to be when they were drafted.
Featured Photo: Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via GETTY IMAGES