The Chicago Blackhawks experienced a fall from grace last year with their first last place finish in the Central Division since 2006. That being said, it’s clear changes will be made. Nothing rash was done. All coaches and front office staff are still in place so the changes will come to players.
Anthony Duclair is going to become a restricted free agent and, as of right now, there’s been no huge trades that would shake up the lineup. However, there’s one player that stands out to be without a place when looking at the roster and that player is Artem Anisimov.
Anisimov went to Chicago in the deal that sent Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015. He was immediately slotted into place as the second line center, the center to Patrick Kane. But now, after Anisimov’s injury this past season, it’s clear that job belongs to Nick Schamltz. So where does Anisimov fall?
The Blackhawks currently have five players listed as centers on their roster according to Hockey Reference: Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza, newcomer Dylan Sikura and Anisimov. Only four of those players can actually play center so either one of them (likely Hinostroza in this case) would move to play winger or the Blackhawks decide to trade one of them. So, that raises the question, why would Anisimov be the one getting traded?
To start, there were rumors of teams inquiring about the availability of Anisimov at the trade deadline so there’s interest out there. However his contact havibg a No Movement Clause makes it tricky.
Anisimov is the oldest of the centers on the roster at age 29, so if you trade him to a team that needs a piece that can help them win now or in the next couple years, he’s a valuable asset. The Blackhawks have been focusing on staying young and building a new young core for the day when Kane, Toews and the rest of the core inevitably retire because they may be talented but they aren’t immortal.
Anisimov also has a hefty contract. According to CapFriendly, in 2018, Anisimov will take on a cap hit of $4.55 million. This is in contrast to the rest of the young centers on the roster that are all still on their rookie deals and making considerably less money. Anisimov is making the most and gives the Blackhawks an opportunity clear out cap space if traded which is always needed for them.
Not to mention, Anisimov produces but his production is slightly misleading. He was tied woth Toews for fourth on the team in goals with 20 but 11 of those 20 goals came on a powerplay. Scoring on a powerplay is valuable but when more than 50% of a player’s goals are coming when the other team is shorthanded, it starts to raise questions about the player’s ability to score at even strength.
Lastly, as mentioned earlier, Anisimov’s spot on the roster was stolen from him. Anisimov got hurt early in the season and Nick Schmaltz got slotted into the role that Anisimov had control of for the past few years. Schmaltz played better than ever in his new role and it’s clear that the 21 year old center deserves to be locked up in that position which leaves Anisimov floating in rotation at the bottom of the lineup.
With every year, there’s changes to shake up the lineup given the tight cap that the NHL operates under. This year, trading Anisimov would be a wise move for the Blackhawks to clear up cap space as well as potentially gain more assets.