Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks: Luke Johnson, Nick Schmaltz Linked

By Sean Fitzgerald
Apr 7, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Denver Pioneers defenseman Nick Neville (2) and North Dakota Fighting Hawks forward Luke Johnson (27) skate after the puck during the first period at the semifinals of the 2016 Frozen Four college ice hockey tournament at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Denver Pioneers defenseman Nick Neville (2) and North Dakota Fighting Hawks forward Luke Johnson (27) skate after the puck during the first period at the semifinals of the 2016 Frozen Four college ice hockey tournament at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Friday that Luke Johnson, a 2013 draft pick, signed his entry-level contract. Johnson is 6-foot-0, 192 lbs. and shoots right-handed. The contract is a three-year deal worth $2,775,000 and $925,000 annually. Johnson, a fifth-round pick, spent the last three years at the University of North Dakota.

Last season, Johnson had a 11 goals and 10 assists with the national champion Fighting Hawks. In his 127-game career at the University of North Dakota, he collected 30 goals and 36 assists. He also recorded a plus-19 rating, while 13 of his 30 goals came on the powerplay, the most in school history. Johnson is now the fourth University of North Dakota player to sign with an NHL team since the team’s national championship victory. Johnson will forgo his senior year to join the Blackhawks organization.

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The Blackhawks now hope to sign Johnson’s former North Dakota teammate Nick Schmaltz as well. Schmaltz was the Blackhawks’ first-round pick in 2014. He just finished his sophomore year in college. Schmaltz recorded 11 goals and 35 assists in 37 games. His point total jumped up 20 points from his freshman year to his sophomore year. Both Johnson and Schmaltz were major cogs in their team’s national championship run. Schmaltz was also invited to attend the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp of 2015-16 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Johnson must have realized this is the perfect time to join the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks once again will be facing a salary cap crunch. Reports are all of their unrestricted free agents will not be resigned. The UFAs are Brandon Mashinter, Tomas Fleischmann, Dale Weise, Andrew Ladd and Christian Ehrhoff.

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The Blackhawks also have choices on RFAs

Richard Panik

,

Dennis Rasmussen

and, perhaps the biggest RFA on the roster,

Andrew Shaw

. The speculation is that the Blackhawks will not be able to re-sign Shaw. That could potentially leave five forward spots open on the Blackhawks’ roster.

One could speculate that Johnson signed because the Blackhawks informed him of their situation and there will be chances to the play in the NHL next season. Johnson has a chance to make the NHL team with a good training camp.

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Hopefully Johnson’s signing will sway Schamltz to sign his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks. Johnson saw the writing on the wall: There will be roster spots open on the Blackhawks. It will be interesting to see if Schmaltz signs with the Blackhawks or returns to the University of North Dakota for his junior season.

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