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Chicago Blackhawks’ 6 Most Useful Departures To Have In 2017-18

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WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 10: Niklas Hjalmarsson
WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 10: Niklas Hjalmarsson /
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4. Artemi Panarin

I had a really hard tie deciding between two entries on this list for Nos. 4 and 3. Ultimately, I’ve gone with the recently-departed Russian at No. 4. He was Kane’s linemate for two seasons, which featured some really impressive scoring from the Blackhawks’ second line.

When Panarin was snagged from the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg in 2015, it seemed like there was almost equal excitement for him and fellow Russian import Viktor Tikhonov joining the Blackhawks. That quickly changed, as Panarin made up a third of the Blackhawks’ only legit scoring line the following season, along with Kane and Artem Anisimov.

Panarin tallied 151 regular-season points and eight postseason points in his brief time with the Blackhawks, including the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2016. He and Kane had an electric connection, even if things occasionally got predictable and Panarin had some trouble playing legit defense.

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When Panarin was traded to Columbus this offseason in the deal that brought Saad back to town, it was stunning. I still contend the Blackhawks got the better end of that deal long-term, but there’s no doubt the Blackhawks are going to be in a serious search to replace someone who contributed as many points as Panarin did.

3. Marcus Kruger

Kruger’s reputation as one of the league’s premier defensive centers is so impressive that he surpasses a major offensive talent like Panarin on this list. But indeed, while Kruger’s accomplishments will be overlooked when this Blackhawks era is a bygone moment, there’s no doubt he was and still would be critical to this team.

Kruger has averaged 13:59 of regular-season ice time in his career and has maxed out at 28 points. Yet, all you have to do is dig into possession stats to realize how important he was to Chicago before being jettisoned this offseason in an expansion draft-related move with Vegas.

Each of the last four seasons, Kruger has started no better than 24.1 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. And yet, he hasn’t posted a Corsi-for rate of worse than 48.4 percent in that time. In fact, that mark has been above 50 percent in three of the four seasons.

Kruger’s lack of offense the last two seasons paired with a new, more expensive contract, made some Blackhawks fans sour on him. But there’s no doubt the Blackhawks need a guy who can flip the ice like Kruger now more than ever.

With the team’s overall possession rate steadily diving in recent years, losing someone who gives the puck back to you is major. So in spite of his relatively unimpressive point totals (though we should never forget the triple-overtime playoff goal against Anaheim in 2015), Kruger would be a massive asset to the 2017-18 Blackhawks.

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