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Kane, Toews excited by direction Blackhawks are heading

Forwards ready to see what offseason additions can bring to table

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews looked on with a feeling that was half excitement, half nervousness as the Chicago Blackhawks made a number of changes to their roster this offseason. 

"Every day felt like July 1," Toews said at the 12th annual Blackhawks Convention on Friday. "Even around the [NHL] Draft, things were happening."

After finishing 36-34-12 and missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season, Chicago revamped at defenseman, acquiring Olli Maatta in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 15 for forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Maatta, who won the Cup twice with Pittsburgh (2016, 2017), had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 60 games last season.


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Nine days later, the Blackhawks acquired defenseman Calvin de Haan and forward prospect Aleksi Saarela in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes for goalie Anton Forsberg and defenseman Gustav Forsling. De Haan had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 74 games last season.

"You never really know what's going to happen or how things turn out," said Toews, who was second on the Blackhawks with an NHL career-high 81 points (35 goals, 46 assists) last season. "But looking at the guys who are coming in, hearing their reputations, their track records as teammates in their [former] locker rooms, and just seeing what they bring as players, all of a sudden you start to think about what they can bring to your team and where they fit in in your roster. It's exciting to look at it and think of all the possibilities right now."

The Blackhawks also got stronger by signing goalie Robin Lehner to a one-year, $5 million contract July 1. Lehner went 25-13-5 with a 2.13 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and six shutouts last season for the New York Islanders and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL goalie voted best at his position.

The additions should help solidify Chicago defensively after it allowed 291 goals last season, second-most in the NHL behind the Ottawa Senators (301).

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"As long as I've been here, we've never had a problem with scoring goals. That's going to come," Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "I think we just need to shore up the back end and obviously with the additions we've made, that's going to help. But the guys who were here last year, we have to be that much better at playing defense and keeping the puck out of our net."

The Blackhawks also added several forwards, including one they were familiar with, Andrew Shaw, who played for Chicago from 2012-16, winning the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015. He was acquired in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on June 30 after he had an NHL career-high 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) in 63 games last season. 

Chicago also signed Ryan Carpenter, who had 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 68 games last season with the Vegas Golden Knights, on July 1, acquired Alexander Nylander in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Henri Jokiharju on July 9, and got Zack Smith in a trade from the Ottawa Senators for Artem Anisimov on July 16. 

But they'll also have their first full season with coach Jeremy Colliton, who was hired Nov. 6 to replace Joel Quenneville.

"He's really a bright guy and I think the thing he brings to the table is he's smart, but he brings a simple approach," said Patrick Kane, who led the Blackhawks with an NHL career-high 110 points (44 goals, 66 assists) last season. "He kind of lets you play off your strengths. I think he's going to be a good coach for a long time."

The Blackhawks have made a lot of changes this offseason, and in a few months, they'll start to see if they help them return to the postseason. 

"We want to be in the playoffs, but it's not like because we have a better team all of a sudden you're guaranteed a spot," Kane said. "We have to go about progressions, we have to go through training camp, we have to go through preseason, get over to Europe (2019 NHL Global Series) and have a good start to the season over there.

"Obviously, you don't want to look too far ahead, you want to enjoy the moment you're in now, which is training, getting ready for camp and getting yourself ready as possible. That's where we're at, but I like the direction the team's headed." 

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