Where do I sit with my emotions now that I've had time to think?
Well, still mildly perplexed, mixed with a little resentment.
I may never understand the true reasons Stan Bowman wanted to trade Henri Jokiharju, however, I will unpack a little more objectiveness below.
Let's first separate the player Henri Jokiharju, then evaluate the trade as a whole.
Why trade a 20-year-old RHD with top 4 potential?
All I can surmise from the question above is that Bowman has a master plan and is sticking with it.
There were some interesting tidbits that came out of the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast by Jay Zawaski of 670 The Score; he states that one of his sources had the Hawks shopping Jokiharju for a while because – while he's a steady defender, he doesn't excel in any specific area.
He was sworn to secrecy from said source for obvious reason as the Hawks were putting feelers out for him.
Scott Powers of The Athletic claimed the same thing; the Hawks were looking for a new home for Henri.
Now, herein lies my question: did the Hawks just want to move him because of the logjam on the backend (that they purposely created)? Or did they see Jokiharju as an asset to help improve this Blackhawks team for today and tomorrow?
One would think the latter is the obvious choice, however, to me it all feels rushed to me.
We'll get down to the evaluation of the return below, but I just find it hard to believe the Alexander Nylander alone in a trade was the best deal the Hawks could make.
We can't really be surprised to see Henri moved based on all of the signs in the last 18 months. It's been well documented that he started off well, making the team out of camp at 19 years old. Sure, it was due to some injuries, but he didn't look out of place.
Then after winning gold at the WJHC, he remained in AHL for the rest of the year with guys like Dennis Gilbert getting a call up over him.
Some have suggested that the fans and media created a bit of a tale of greatness propping the young Finn to God-like status – and that may be true. His play and potential was fresh off the bandwagon in articles and podcast I consumed.
However, I can only speak for what I personally saw in Henri Jokiharju. His play was very solid in my eyes. He's my kind of solid, smooth skating, steady defender that I thought the Hawks would cherish for years to come.
Of course, not every shift was perfect and to Zawaski's info above from his source, his game was outstanding in any area. But to me, that was ok.
Moving on to this summer, I'm not going to argue at all with what Stan Bowman did by going out and acquiring Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.
The Hawks haven't had a reliable group of defencemen that have gelled together since the 2014-15 Cup year. Since then, it's been a crazy carousel of mediocre and over-the-hill retreads. Couple that with an aging Keith and Seabrook and it… uh… hasn't been pretty.
So, no, I'm not upset at all – I'm actually really excited – that Stan went out and aggressively sought out proven, veteran help on the backend.
This is the path the Hawks should be going in, even with these saviours that we have been referring to as the 4-horsemen coming up through the ranks.
This way, the Jokiharju's, Boqvist's, Mitchell's and Beaudin's can enter into the league at the most beneficial time on their developmental course.
Mark Kelley stated a couple of times that the Hawks never envisioned all of their prospects to be on the team. He and Stan Bowman view these guys are assets. Which ones make an impact on the Hawks in the future and which prospects are dealt to better the team in other ways would sort itself out.
Well, one of those "assets" were sent packing on July 9th.
What else factored in?
I'm looking at this trade a little more objectively now that I've had some time.
Here's what I've come up with – and this is based on what I saw, the tea leaves I read, as well as little assumption.
The Hawks knew what they Jokiharju after they got a good look at him in Chicago and Rockford. Jeremy Colliton saw some flaws in his game and deemed it was better for his development to play some international hockey, as well as hone his game in Rockford.
Parallel to that, the Hawks have been keeping a close watch in the progress of the other top defensive prospects in the system. I'm going to single out Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell.
Boqvist took some time as expected to get used to the North American game but then took off offensively in the 2nd half his season in the OHL, as well as in the playoffs.
The Hawks must be happy with this and there's some debate on whether Boqvist heads back to London or if the Hawks keep him close in Rockford. I believe he goes to the AHL this season so he can get a taste of the NHL if any injuries or decisions on Erik Gustafsson arise throughout the year (ie. Does he stay or does he get moved?)
Ian Mitchell is the real interesting one to me. My assumption is that the Bowman, Smith and the scouting department were really happy with his progression last season and see him as a fit sooner than later.
The Hawks might be looking at bringing in Ian Mitchell after his season concludes in Denver this spring. Mitchell has been quoted saying that when he comes into the NHL he wants to make an immediate impact. As in, I don't want to toil around in Rockford for a few years.
I can see him viewing himself as this year's Cale Makar (his buddy from the AJHL). Makar entered the scene in Colorado and looked like he belonged and this was in the playoffs(!).
Can Mitchell take that next step and be an impact player in Chicago? Time will tell but signs are pointing to him having a shot at being a regular with the Hawks by 2020-21.
Why Alex Nylander?
"I thought maybe I would be in the NHL sooner than I have been, but I'm just really excited and looking forward to being part of the Blackhawks organization," Nylander said. "They're really good with development players. They actually know what they're doing. I'm going to do my best and stuff that happened in Buffalo and Rochester is obviously in the past."
Eeek, shots fired.
Bowman has come out and said he specifically targeted the younger Nylander even going as far as saying they loved him in his draft year but didn't have a pick in the first round.
So, an asset (Jokiharju) was used and this is the guy Chicago wanted.
My assumption is that Bowman wanted to move Jokiarju sooner than later before the summer got too far along and other team's rosters filled up. He's proven to be very aggressive in his moves this summer and this was another example.
I'm thinking Bowman wanted to bolster the Hawks forward depth and instead of striking a deal with a guy like Ryan Dzingel (a reported target of CHI who remains unsigned), he jumped at the opportunity to sign Robin Lehner when he became available.
Therefore, if the Hawks wanted to add another impact, scoring forward, it would have to be done through a trade.
Nylander is far from a proven impact, scoring forward, however, his offensive skill dating back to his junior days is undeniable. While he hasn't been able to crack the NHL on a full-time basis or even produce at a high rate in the AHL, Bowman and Co. must see something in the 21-year-old Swede.
Time will tell if he will ever amount to his 8th overall potential, but the Hawks are banking on it. He will have every opportunity to make the Hawks out of training camp and if he can crack the top 6, he just may flourish.
If you would like to get to know Alex Nylander off the ice (and you have 9 minutes to kill), check out this feature from the Rochester Americans:
I'm not as low as I was originally on this trade. I am also not very high on this move. I will remain "meh" about this trade until I see a little more of Nylander and how he fits on the Hawks.
There is so much surrounding Nylander and his lazy, disinterested attitude on the ice but I will wait to pass judgment and hope these allegations are being overblown. Either that or hope that this change of scenery boosts Alex's confidence and gives him the opportunity to show what he can do at the NHL level.
Nylander believes he belongs in the NHL… let's see it, kid!
I've been adamant about the fact the Anisimov will be dealt this offseason. I'm not alone in that thinking.
Jay Zawaski stated on his latest podcast Hawks are indeed looking to move AA but haven't been about to find a trade partner.
He also mentioned that after this Nylander move, Brendon Perlini is being shopped as well.
I found it curious that Bowman has been so optimistic about signing Perlini however no deal has been made yet. He even called Perlini a "sniper" in the last teleconference, which sounded to me like he was pumping the 23-year-old up to the rest of the NHL GMs to hear.
The Hawks have a glutton of forwards that will be competing for jobs in training camp this year and something has to give.
I like Perlini's skillset of being a big, fast forward with some finishing ability. However, if his demands are too high or Colliton isn't the biggest fan, it wouldn't be a shock to see him dealt.
Blackhawks Developmental Camp
The Hawks announced the players the will be attending this year's camp on July 15th- July 19th. There will be 37 players participating… including -->
Alex Nylander has been added to #Blackhawks prospect camp roster. He'll wear No. 92.
Lastly, moving over to some sad news, former Blackhawk Greg Johnson passed away at just 48 years young. Johnson only played one season in Chicago and was more known for being the captain of the Nashville Predators. My thoughts are with his family.
We are saddened to learn of the passing of former Blackhawk Greg Johnson.