The Chicago Blackhawks have a new project to develop after acquiring forward Tomas Jurco in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.
Chicago traded its third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft with the hope of bringing out the best out in Jurco, a 6-foot-2 left wing who turned 24 in December. A similar change of scenery helped forward Richard Panik last season after the Blackhawks acquired him in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 3, 2016.
Jurco had no points and two penalty minutes in 16 games with the Red Wings this season. He had 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists) in 159 NHL games over four seasons with Detroit, including eight goals in 36 games in 2013-14.
"This is a player we've been talking about for quite a while and had our eye on, even going back previous years watching his style of play," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. "He's a big kid, he's got a lot of skill, speed, and plays a style that works well with the way we play. We're excited about his contributions here and the potential for what he can become once he gets acclimated."
Panik was given a similar description when he was acquired for forward Jeremy Morin last season. At the time of that trade, Morin and Panik were playing in the American Hockey League. Panik, 26, finished the season with the Blackhawks and had eight points (six goals, two assists) in 30 games. He had three assists in Chicago's loss to the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference First Round.
Panik has 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 61 games this season and plays right wing with center Jonathan Toews and rookie left wing Nick Schmaltz.
Bowman has similar hopes for Jurco, whose stickhandling made him a top player for Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League prior to the Red Wings taking him with the No. 35 pick of the 2011 NHL Draft.
Jurco did not get a regular spot in the Red Wings lineup, and he had minor back surgery in August, which kept him out until Nov. 29.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Jurco, a pending restricted free agent, requested a trade.
"Obviously, things haven't worked out in Detroit the last couple of months," Holland said. "He's been very frustrated and requested a change of scenery, and his agent has been calling me. His contract was up, and we didn't know if he was intending on staying with us. It's a great opportunity for Tomas in Chicago, and we move on."
Chicago sent rookie forward Vinnie Hinostroza to Rockford of the AHL to make room on the roster. Hinostroza had 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 48 NHL games this season.
The Blackhawks hope Jurco will practice with them Saturday and he could play against the St. Louis Blues at United Center on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).
"You have to have some patience with these guys," Bowman said. "It doesn't always come together right away. We're not expecting him to carry our team, but I think he can contribute. It'll take some time for him to learn how we play. There has to be a measure of patience, but the potential is great."
Bowman didn't say he was finished making trades prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on March 1 (3 p.m. ET) but said he is confident in the roster. The Blackhawks are 8-1-0 in their past nine games and have won three straight.
"It's my job to keep talking to people, see if there's an opportunity that can improve the team, but it's a little bit different than in previous years when I thought we definitely needed something and were lacking in an area," Bowman said. "I'm not expecting more trades. I can't predict more will happen, but I have a good feeling about this group right now."