The joke has already been made on Twitter by several people, but Arizona and Chicago know they can trade with other teams, right?
In all seriousness, the Coyotes and Blackhawks made an interesting deal on Sunday night with center Nick Schmaltz heading to Arizona in exchange for center Dylan Strome and left winger Brendan Perlini.
In essence, this is a “fresh start” trade for all involved, with no doubt a little anxiety baked in for Coyotes fans. Strome, after all, was drafted third overall in 2015, behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, but before Mitch Marner and Noah Hanifin (not to mention Mikko Rantanen and Zach Werenski). His progress has been studied at every turn, as the hockey community waited and wondered if his skating would get to a quick enough level to unlock his other gifts at the NHL level. Last season, Strome dominated the AHL and things looked pretty good. But this year, the big center has produced just six points through 20 NHL games. Similarly, Perlini is a 2014 first-rounder blessed with size and good skating ability, but cursed by inconsistency. He too has six points on the year, putting him behind pace for last season’s 30-point campaign.
For Chicago, there is definitely talent to unlock in both these young players and since it’s not looking like a playoff year for the Blackhawks, they can take the time to see what they have in their shiny new toys.
On the positive side of the ledger, Chicago’s deep pool of veterans could be great for the youngsters. Strome has never had a fellow center like Jonathan Toews on his team and few NHLers are better than ‘Captain Serious’ when it comes to setting a positive example both on and off the ice. There’s also the obvious Erie Otters connection in Strome being reunited with former linemate Alex DeBrincat – the pair won an OHL title together just two years ago.
In Perlini, we’ve seen flashes of a player that could make noise in the NHL, but never a full meal’s worth. Can new coach Jeremy Colliton coax the left winger to the next level? There’s a lot of upside here for Chicago, though no guarantee either player will reach it.
For Arizona, the Coyotes get the best player – right now – in the deal. Schmaltz has already broken the 50-point mark once in his short NHL career and has proven that he can play with top-end linemates, such as Toews and Patrick Kane. But Schmaltz has stalled a bit this season, even though Kane is his top linemate. The talented playmaker has 11 points through 23 games and just two goals, after netting 21 the year prior. But there is certainly talent to work with and as the Coyotes continue to hone their lineup (or throw things at the wall, depending on your opinion), Schmaltz can be another weapon at coach Rick Tocchet’s disposal – and a versatile one, at that.
“Nick is a dynamic forward with top-line potential,” said Arizona GM John Chayka. “We feel he can be a core player of our team now and into the future. He’s a good complement to our evolving forward group and a rare combination of speed, skill and creativity.”
Right now, the Coyotes need to have some success in the desert (whereas Chicago is coming down from their Stanley Cup years) and based on the standings, they’ve got some work to do if they want to hop into the Western Conference playoff race. Will the short-term upgrade of Schmaltz be worth the risk of Strome and Perlini potentially breaking out in Chicago? That will be the storyline to watch in the next couple seasons.