The Chicago Blackhawks made two draft-day trades Friday, dealing defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and winger Artemi Panarin in swaps with the Arizona Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively.
The Panarin trade brings back former Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad, who spent the past two seasons in Columbus after starting his career in Chicago as a 2011 second-round pick. The Blackhawks also sent Tyler Motte and a 2017 sixth-round pick to the Blue Jackets in return for Saad, Anton Forsberg and a 2018 fifth-rounder.
"Change isn't always easy, but I think it's necessary," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a news conference following the trades. "We're excited about the potential for this group."
While Patrick Kane flourished with Panarin on his line the past few seasons -- winning the Hart Trophy in 2015-16 -- the Blackhawks have struggled to find a running mate for captain Jonathan Toews' top line since Saad was traded to Columbus.
Panarin has shown a higher offensive upside than Saad in his time in the league, but Saad is considered a better two-way forward. That becomes especially important with this week's news that Marian Hossa will miss the upcoming season with a skin condition. The 38-year-old was still considered one of the league's best defensive forwards.
Both Panarin and Saad carry a $6 million cap hit, but Saad is signed through 2020-21, two years longer than Panarin.
"Artemi Panarin was the best rookie in the NHL two years ago, a second team All-Star this past season and is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NHL," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. "There is a cost to adding a player like Artemi, as well as a very good NHL prospect in Tyler Motte, but we believe this is a very good move for our team. We wish Brandon and Anton well and thank them for their contributions to our organization."
Welcome to #CBJ, @72Artemi! pic.twitter.com/Ab0tzcxVCK— ColumbusBlueJackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) June 23, 2017
Bowman thanked Panarin for his contributions over two seasons, calling the 25-year-old's rookie year in 2015-16 as one of the best debut seasons in franchise history.
Even though Saad has been in the league four years longer than Panarin, he is a year younger because Panarin played for years in his native Russia before signing with the Blackhawks.
Saad was dealt to Columbus after the Blackhawks won the title in 2015 when the sides couldn't reach agreement on a new contract. One of the pieces that came back was Artem Anisimov, who has centered the line with Kane and Panarin.
"The chemistry is there right away," Bowman said of Saad's return. "And his intensity and all-around game is second to none."
Saad said he heard from Toews and defenseman Brent Seabrook after the trade.
"You know what you're getting. You know how he's fitting in," Toews said. "In that sense, it's a win. But seeing [Panarin] go hurts as well. He wanted to grow. He has a lot of those intangibles. It's a shock to see him go after only two seasons."
In Forsberg, the Blackhawks get a young goalie to replenish their system. They traded backup Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes in the offseason, leaving a void behind starter Corey Crawford.
"I certainly like the fact that we're getting younger," Bowman said. "I think we saw last year with some of our young players really take that next step, and I think, if anything, you know you have to have a measure of youth in your lineup nowadays. I think the league is getting younger and younger."
Hjalmarsson, 30, had spent his entire 10-year career with Chicago, helping the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup titles. He had five goals, 13 assists and a team-high 181 blocked shots in 73 games last season.
"Niklas' contributions to the three Stanley Cup championship teams are well-known, but his dependability as a teammate, selfless attitude and the way he represented the Chicago Blackhawks on and off the ice are what made him such a beloved member of the organization," Bowman said in a statement earlier Friday. "He made his debut in Chicago in 2008 and quietly established himself as one of the toughest competitors in franchise history. We wish he and his family continued success."
The Blackhawks received defenseman Connor Murphy and center Laurent Dauphin from the Coyotes. Murphy, 24, had two goals and a career-high 15 assists in 77 games with Arizona last season. Dauphin, 22, has appeared in 32 NHL games over the past two seasons.
"I just have nothing but exciting feelings going to a great organization," Murphy said. "It means a lot to me that Stan Bowman has put the trust in the trade, believing that I can help the team."
The trade comes with Arizona in a bit of turmoil. The team announced Thursday, on the eve of the NHL draft, that coach Dave Tippett was out after eight seasons in a mutual agreement between the coach and the franchise.
Hjalmarsson gives Arizona more stability on the back end after it traded away No. 1 goalie Mike Smith last weekend. The Coyotes also decided against re-signing captain Shane Doan after 21 years with the franchise.
Tippett coached the Coyotes through four years of being run by the NHL after the team went into bankruptcy, making the best with a squad hampered by financial limitations. The Coyotes reached the 2012 Western Conference finals but have fallen on hard times since, missing the playoffs in five straight seasons.
The coach was given a five-year contract extension and was named executive vice president of hockey operations in 2015 but had philosophical differences with owner Andrew Barroway.
Hjalmarsson, a fourth-round pick in the 2005 draft, had 23 goals and 120 assists in 623 career games with Chicago. He also holds the franchise record for postseason games played by a defenseman at 128.
The Blackhawks won the Central Division last season with a 50-23-9 record, finishing with the most points in the Western Conference. They were considered one of the favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup Final but were swept by the Nashville Predators in the first round, scoring just three goals in 13 periods.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.