During Blackhawks Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman's press conference to address a morning of surprising trades, he began by saying that it was a day of "high emotions." It was a succinct way to characterize the trade that sent long-serving defenseman and three-time Stanley Cup winner Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona in exchange for a pair of younger players, including 24-year-old Connor Murphy, a former first-round pick.
Bowman wasn't done, however, and less than an hour later he sent dynamic winger Artemi Panarin to Columbus to secure the return of Brandon Saad, a two-time champion with the Blackhawks, in a trade that also swapped forward Tyler Motte for goalie prospect Anton Forsberg.
Below is a partial transcription of Bowman's comments regarding the trades.
"Moving forward, we're very excited for these trades that we made -- in particular, bringing back a player that everybody's familiar with in Brandon Saad. It's pretty well-documented how well he fit into our group.
Connor Murphy is an individual that I've had the chance to see up close for the last couple of years, working with USA Hockey at the World Championship. He was the captain of that team this year. Connor is a very impressive young man; he's got a lot of character, leadership, very articulate, very engaging person. His hockey game is something we don't have a lot of. We really like his size, his physicality, his overall game, and we're looking forward to seeing him in a Blackhawk jersey.
In addition, we have a younger player from Arizona, Laurent Dauphin, a centerman who is just breaking through to the NHL. I think he's looking for that full-time role next year and we're hoping he's ready for that as well. He does a little bit of everything; he's a responsible player but has some skill, size and speed. Finally, we got a goaltender in Anton Forsberg, who has great potential. I think his time is now. He's had a couple years to work his way up, he's had tremendous success at the American Hockey League level, and now he has the chance at the NHL level.
We feel that we've pushed our franchise forward with these moves, and there's a lot of reason for excitement and optimism."
On Saad's impact:
"Certainly it was a tough move a couple years ago to have to make that trade, so today my conversation with Brandon had a much different tone. We've always said we wanted to get him back here at some point, but you never know if that's going to be possible. This deal came together pretty quickly over the last several days.…We didn't get into discussions until recently. Now that we've been able to, we're very excited. Brandon is coming back to our team, so the chemistry is there right away, and the intensity of the way he plays. His all-around game is second to none."
On the purpose for making these deals:
"I certainly like the fact that we've gotten younger. We saw last year some of our young players really take that next step, and you have to have a measure of youth in your lineup nowadays. The league is getting younger and younger, and it was certainly exciting for us to see some breakthrough performances last year. … Add to that mix someone like Brandon Saad who's won a couple of Stanley Cups already, and he's 24 years old. Same thing with Connor Murphy, he's 24 years old and he's just about to enter the prime of his career; his best years are ahead of him. That's exciting when you think that they haven't played their best hockey yet, but they're also not new players who are going to be behind the curve. They're both ready to really take off.
Cost certainty is another big factor for us. It's a challenge when you have contracts that you know are going to be expiring in a year or two, and those guys are going to be due for some pay increases. At that time you're going to look around and figure out how you're going to replace those players. There's a combination of looking ahead but also bringing some of that enthusiasm and young players into this mix. We've still got an incredible core of players here who have accomplished an awful lot together. They can get energized by having some of these young guys around, and we're looking for this to spark the group to achieve even more things down the road.
Change is not always easy, but it's necessary, and we're looking forward and excited about the potential for this group."
On giving up the Panarin-Kane chemistry:
"The thing that's so incredible about Patrick is, he's found success in so many different ways, with so many different players, and that's what makes him the greatest player in the game. He makes everyone around him better. When we had a lot of success years ago, he really would elevate everyone around him. Obviously he had tremendous chemistry with Artemi, there's no question about that. But I don't think there's any reason for us to believe he's not going to develop that chemistry with someone next season. I'm not sure who it'll be -- it could be someone who played last year, it could be Saad, it could be a young player who's coming in. There's a lot of potential, but I know that Patrick continues to evolve his game and be a difference-maker, so I think we'll be able to get through that."
On Forsberg's potential:
"We're very optimistic about the potential for Anton. We like his profile as a goalie -- for a big guy who takes up a lot of the net, he's certainly got that mobility to be able to make traditional saves as well as athletic saves.
The thing that was most impressive to us when he led his team (the Lake Erie Monsters) to the Calder Cup championship [in 2015]. He knows what it's like to put the team on his back. Understandably it was the AHL and not the NHL, but he's had a lot of success at the AHL level, been there for three seasons, and now he's earned the right to be an NHL goalie.
We've got a tremendous No. 1 goalie in Crawford, and Corey is going to have the lion's share of the work, but it's time to Anton to get a chance to be that No. 2 and to have a great tandem going forward."