With the trade deadline just two days away, rumors are circling around that the Chicago Blackhawks are open to trading Artem Anisimov.
There’s no telling what the Chicago Blackhawks are going to do at this season’s trade deadline. Rumors have milled around the hockey world over the last two months and, besides the Brandon Manning and Jan Rutta trades, nothing has come about.
But recent reports from two of the top NHL insiders should be catching the eyes of Blackhawks’ fans.
During an intermission report on NBCSN Wednesday night, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that while the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t looking to “give up future assets for the rentals that are out there,” they’re certainly thinking about entertaining offers on forward Artem Anisimov.
"“Now, the development of Dylan Strome as a second-line center – and you saw his magic with Alex DeBrincat with what they’ve meant to the Chicago Blackhawks – does mean that Artem Anisimov could become expendable. But he’s got two years left at $4.5 million AAV. That might not be an easy deal to move. But it is certainly something the Blackhawks would look at.” – Bob McKenzie on NBCSN (via transcription from Chris Nichols)"
"“They’re trying to move Anisimov. I’m not leaning into the Seabrook thing again. I think I got enough out of that one this year. I just think that they’re in a position where they’re gonna go for it ’cause there’s a lot of pressure there to go for [the playoffs]. – Elliotte Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast, February 21 (link to podcast)"
With the lack of centers on the market right now, it makes sense that teams would have interest in Anisimov. In 58 games, he has 28 points (10 goals and 18 assists). He also has six points in his last nine games and has been solid as the third line center in between Brandon Saad and Dylan Sikura.
For teams that need depth scoring at center, Anisimov can provide that. He’s a strong two-way forward who can kill penalties and be a net-front presence on the power play. His play has really improved as of late, too.
As McKenzie mentioned, his deal isn’t exactly an easy one to move. Anisimov’s contract runs through the end of the 2020-2021 season with a $4.5 million cap hit each year. He also has a modified no-trade clause until July 1st this year, which means he would either need to waive the NTC to be traded or the Blackhawks’ front office has to ask for his 10-team trade list.
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It’s unclear what the return could be for an Anisimov deal. In this week’s Blackhawk Up Mailbag, I wrote about what it might take to get him off the books, but no one knows for sure. If I’m Stan Bowman, I’m asking for a third-round pick at the very least and maybe even ask for a prospect, too. The Predators gave up a second-round pick for Brian Boyle just a little under a month ago. That should just about set the market for bottom-six forwards.
A player that’s comparable to Anisimov is Florida Panthers center Derick Brassard, who is about one year older and has a resume just slightly better than the Russian forward. Anisimov has averaged 0.49 points per game over his 11 seasons in the NHL while Brassard averages 0.58 points per game, but he also has two 50+ point seasons while Anisimov does not.
Additionally, the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Florida Panthers have all found value in Brassard over the last three years due to his impact in the playoffs. He may even be traded again before Monday’s deadline. When he was a member of the New York Rangers, Brassard had 44 points in 59 playoff games. He also had 11 points in 19 playoff games with the Senators in 2017 but had just four points in 12 playoff games with the Penguins last year.
Anisimov doesn’t have the playoff Brassard has. He recorded 11 points in 26 playoff games while he was in Manhattan, but he only has six points in 17 games between playoff appearances with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks.
While I don’t believe Anisimov’s value is anywhere near high enough for the Blackhawks to get packages like teams have received when they traded Brassard, there’s no telling how far interested teams may go to take him. Teams took Brassard’s $5 million cap hit a couple of times and Vegas retained salary on him even with a modified no-trade clause. I could definitely see the Blackhawks retaining a little bit of salary on Anisimov to up his value even more.
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If Stan Bowman can find a suitor for Artem Anisimov now at the right price, he should do it. There’s no telling what might happen with the Blackhawks and the playoffs, but they definitely shouldn’t be in the market to acquire any big rental pieces. If they can get shed some cap space now to make room for a possible trade or free agency deal in the offseason, that’s what they should do.
Anisimov may stay put for now, but expect to hear his name pop up again once the season’s over if that happens. The Chicago Blackhawks are probably looking to retool on the fly instead of diving head-first into a long rebuild and an Anisimov trade can get things started quickly.