Blackhawks’ management has made some head-scratching decisions over the past few years, including moving big-name forwards, bringing back players for a “victory lap,” and shipping out top-four defensemen. The deals that saw Nick Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Michal Kempny leave Chicago were the three worst trades the Blackhawks made involving defenseman in the past six seasons.
Where to begin? I’ll start with this. Who is Kent Simpson? A mediocre real estate agent from Midwestern America? Now that that’s out of the way, Ville Pokka did have a decent run with the IceHogs; playing 266 games over a four-year span. Sadly, he never cracked the Blackhawks lineup. T.J. Brennan, cool name, but that’s about it. He appeared in 54 games for the IceHogs before he was sent off to Toronto. Lastly, Anders Nilsson never played a game in the Blackhawks’ organization and was sent to Edmonton in 2015.
What did Nick Leddy do after the trade? Excel. After four seasons with the Blackhawks including one incredible Stanley Cup run in 2013, Leddy posted his four most productive seasons with the Islanders. He averaged 41 points per season over that span, playing the most minutes of any player on “the Island.” Now, a decent argument can be made that sometimes moves have to be made for cap reasons, but as a fan, we don’t care and we just need a reason to complain.
The Second Worst
Here we are. I wanted to put this trade as the worst because Niklas Hjalmarsson is the man that all men wish to be. But, after searching through images of Hjalmarsson in great suits and cool hats, I got over the pain and decided that Connor Murphy was (almost, hopefully, please) worth the trade.
Niklas Hjalmarsson is a machine. Nonhuman. Over his ten seasons with the Blackhawks (2007-2017), he blocked 1,186 regular-season shots. That’s the equivalent of blocking one shot every day for over three years. He led the Blackhawks in blocked shots in three of those seasons (2010-11 with 166, 2013-14 with 157, and 2016-17 with 187). It may not be the most popular statistic, but for teammates watching a peer take shots off the foot, ankle, and calves, there is nothing more admirable. With that being said, hopefully Connor Murphy can make the sting a little less painful.
The Third Worst
February 19, 2018: Blackhawks trade Michal Kempny for Third-Round Pick (Jake Wise)
Who knew Michal Kempny was going to play the seventh-most minutes by a Capital in their Stanley Cup run? In his two seasons with the Blackhawks, Kempny played a total of 81 games, averaging only 15 minutes of ice time in that span (seventh-most by a defenseman). With the Capitals, he seemed to reach his fullest potential averaging 18 minutes of ice time and playing the fourth-most minutes by a defenseman on the team in the 2018 Playoffs. Now, in regards to the third-round pick, Jake Wise has spent time with the U.S. Under-18 team and just finished his second season at Boston University. It is yet to be seen what kind of player he can be, but there is no denying that Kempny was a big part of the Capitals winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Even though these trades can likely be justified due to cap reasons and other circumstances, it is still difficult to see players like this go and stings just a bit more during the Blackhawks’ struggles defensively.