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The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Monday evening, and the Chicago Blackhawks are not a part of them. As they are just starting their rebuild, it will likely be quite a while before we will be hosting postgame shows in May and June.
Still, the NHL postseason is the greatest two months in all of sports, even without our favorite team.
If you struggle to find a team to cheer for over the next few weeks, we are here to help. There are 22 former Blackhawks beginning their quest for the Stanley Cup on 11 of the 16 teams who qualified for the playoffs. The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, and Pittsburgh Penguins do not have any ex-Blackhawks, but the rest of the field all have at least one.
Minnesota Wild: Marc-Andre Fleury (G), Ryan Hartman (F)
We will start in the Central Division with the team that Blackhawks fans should be cheering for, as their success can benefit the Windy City squad. Yes, it is hard to cheer for a team from Minnesota, but a possible first-round pick should ease the sting.
Last July, the Blackhawks acquired Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights for Mikael Hankarainen in a move to dump salary. The Golden Knights probably regret this trade as their very expensive roster will be watching the Stanley Cup playoffs from the couch. In 45 games for the Blackhawks, Fleury went 19-21-5 with a .908 save percentage (SV%), 2.95 goals-against average (GAA), and four shutouts. Those numbers were even more impressive when considering what a poor defensive team the Blackhawks were.
The Blackhawks’ second-round pick for the veteran netminder can become a first-round pick if the Wild makes it to the Western Conference Finals and Fleury wins at least four games. This should be all the incentive fans in Chicago should need to cheer for the boys in forest green.
If Minnesota is going to win two rounds, Hartman will have to show up in the postseason. The 27-year-old winger is one of many failed Stan Bowman first-round picks. Taken 30th overall in 2013, he was traded to the Predators in 2018 for a first-round and fourth-round pick with Victor Ejdsell. Those two draft picks turned into Nicolas Beaudin and Philipp Kurashev, while Hartman was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Wayne Simmonds a year later.
Hartman set career-highs with 34 goals and 30 assists during the regular season and finished on a hot streak. He will need to carry this over into the postseason if they want to make a deep run and help the Blackhawks get that first-round pick.
St. Louis Blues: Brandon Saad (F), Nick Leddy (D)
The Wild’s first-round opponent, the Blues, have a pair of former Blackhawks who got their name on the Stanley Cup during their time in Chicago.
Saad signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Blues this past July after one season with the Avalanche. He had 24 goals and 48 points in his first season in St. Louis. Drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, he was part of the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup championships.
Leddy was the 16th pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Wild. The Blackhawks acquired him and Kim Johnsson for Cam Barker on Jan. 12, 2010. After 258 games and a Stanley Cup victory in 2013, he was traded to the New York Islanders just before the 2014-15 season. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings last summer and was dealt to the Blues at the trade deadline. He has two goals and eight points in 19 games in St. Louis while averaging 21:03 minutes per game.
Calgary Flames: Nikita Zadorov (D), Ryan Carpenter (F)
Zadorov spent the 2020-21 season with the Blackhawks after being acquired from Colorado for Saad. He provided the team with a lot of hits, just not a ton of defense. His RFA rights were traded to Calgary for a third-round pick in this year’s draft. He set career-highs with 18 assists and 22 points this season and 61 giveaways. This will be his fourth trip to the postseason.
Carpenter’s style of play is made for the postseason. It will be interesting to see how many games he plays as he has dressed for just eight contests since the Blackhawks traded him to the Flames for a 2024 fifth-round draft pick.
Edmonton Oilers: Duncan Keith (D)
Keith will likely have a lot of Blackhawks fans cheering for the Oilers. The future Hall of Famer will have his No. 2 hanging from the United Center rafters one day after being a huge part of three championship teams. The two-time Norris Trophy winner has been given a decreased role in Edmonton. In 64 games, he has a goal and 21 points while averaging 19:44 of ice time (TOI). This is the first time in his 17-season career his average TOI is below 20 minutes.
Los Angeles Kings: Philip Danault (F), Olli Maatta (D)
The Blackhawks selected Danault in the first round (26th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. After just 32 games with the team, he was the centerpiece of one of the worst trades of the Bowman era when he was shipped to the Montreal Canadiens for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. After being a big part of the Canadiens’ run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, Danault signed a six-year, $33 million contract with the Kings. He scored a career-high 27 goals for the Kings, shattering his previous high watermark of 13. Adding goal production to his already stellar defensive game makes him a key to Los Angeles’ postseason chances.
Maatta spent one year in Chicago, scoring four goals and 17 points in 65 games during the 2019-20 season. He was acquired from the Penguins for Dominik Kahun in 2019 before being traded a year later to the Kings for AHL forward Brad Morrison. With Drew Doughty out for the playoffs, Maatta will be the veteran leader on the Kings’ backend, along with Alexander Edler.
Florida Panthers: Lukas Carlsson (D), Anthony Duclair (F), Gustav Forsling (D)
The Panthers have always had plenty of former Blackhawks on their roster, so it’s no surprise that they have the most this postseason with three. Carlsson was a fourth-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2016. After playing well with the Rockford IceHogs, he was part of the trade that sent Henrik Borgstrom, Brett Connolly, and Riley Stillman to Chicago. In 40 games this season, he has three goals, six points, and a plus-3 rating.
Duclair’s tenure with the Blackhawks was not long nor very memorable. He struggled to stay in the lineup and scored just two goals and eight points in 23 games. After stops with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators, the 26-year-old forward has blossomed in Florida. This season, he scored a career-high 31 goals and 58 points for the Panthers and will look to erase his zero-point performance from last year’s early playoff exit.
Forsling was supposed to be a defenseman of the future when he was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks for Adam Clendening in 2015. However, the combination of the struggles of a young blueliner and the lack of patience in development by the front office led to his departure in 2019, when he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Calvin de Haan. The Panthers claimed Forsling off waivers in January of 2021, and he has finally reached his potential with them. He set career-highs this season in games played (71), goals (10), assists (27), points (37), plus/minus (plus-41), and TOI (21:13). Not bad for a scrapheap pick-up!
Toronto Maple Leafs: David Kampf (F), Justin Holl (D)
Kampf has fit in nicely during his first season with the Maple Leafs. He scored a career-high 11 goals and 26 points while dressing in all 82 regular-season games. He has provided Toronto with secondary scoring on the bottom six while playing good defense and winning nearly 53% of his faceoffs. He had 17 goals and 58 points during his four seasons with the Blackhawks.
Holl never played for the Blackhawks after they drafted him in the second round (54th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He was never signed to an entry-level contract in Chicago, and the Maple Leafs gobbled him up in 2016. Since then, he has nine goals and 64 points in 205 games for Toronto and is a plus-43.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Brandon Hagel (F), Jan Rutta (D)
Trading Hagel to Tampa Bay was the first major move by new general manager Kyle Davidson. He acquired two first-round picks, Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk, for the 23-year-old winger. As many expected, Hagel’s production has taken a dip as he takes on a smaller role on the stacked Lightning roster. He had four goals and seven points in his 22 games after the trade, with his shooting percentage going from 22.3 to 12.9. What he does in the postseason is important, and if he can help the Lightning to their third straight Stanley Cup, the high price to acquire him will be deemed worthy.
Rutta was signed by the Blackhawks out of Czechia in 2017. He played 80 games over two inconsistent seasons before he was traded to Tampa Bay for Slater Koekkoek and a fifth-round pick that was eventually sent to Pittsburgh in the Maatta deal. Rutta has fit in nicely with the Lightning, winning back-to-back championships. He played in a career-high 76 games this season, scoring three goals and 18 points while finishing at a plus-25.
Carolina Hurricanes: Teuvo Teravainen (F), Antti Raanta (G)
Speaking of bad Bowman-era trades, Teravainen being moved to Carolina to shed Bryan Bickell’s contract still hurts. The Finnish forward has scored 101 goals and 325 points since putting on the Hurricanes sweater. He had 22 goals and 65 points in 77 games this season. The Blackhawks’ 2012 first-round pick (18th overall) has 16 goals and 32 points in 59 career Stanley Cup playoff games.
Raanta’s first two NHL seasons came in Chicago after the Blackhawks signed him out of Finland in 2013. He appeared in 39 games over two seasons before he was traded to the New York Rangers for Ryan Haggerty after the emergence of Scott Darling. He spent this season backing up Frederik Andersen and has dealt with injuries, which has been an issue for most of his career. He and Andersen won the William M. Jennings Memorial Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league. Both goaltenders’ health status is up in the air heading into the postseason.
New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin (F), Tyler Motte (F)
Panarin had a wonderful two-season run with the Blackhawks, scoring 61 goals and 151 points in 162 games. He was dealt to the Blue Jackets in 2017 as part of the trade that brought Saad back to Chicago. He signed a massive deal with the Rangers in 2019 and has 71 goals and 249 points in 186 games. He set a career-high with 74 assists this season and drives the Blue Shirts’ top line.
The Blackhawks drafted Motte in the fourth round (121st overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He had four goals and seven points in 33 games in Chicago before being included in the same deal that sent Panarin to Columbus. He was acquired by the Rangers at this year’s trade deadline from the Canucks. He suffered a “significant” upper-body injury in his 9th game for New York and has yet to start skating. The team has not ruled out a return at some point, but it is doubtful it will happen during their first-round series against Pittsburgh.
Washington Capitals: Michal Kempny (D), Trevor van Riemsdyk (D)
Kempy was signed out of Czechia by the Blackhawks in 2016. He was traded to the Capitals for a third-round pick in 2018. He averaged 17:42 TOI during their 2018 run to the Stanley Cup. He has appeared in just 15 games for the Capitals this season and has spent a lot of the year with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League. It is doubtful we will see him during the playoffs.
Van Riemsdyk was part of the 2015 Stanley Cup team in Chicago. He was drafted by the Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft but was immediately traded to the Hurricanes. He signed with the Capitals in 2020 and has become a fixture on their third defensive pairing. He had a goal and a career-high 17 points in 72 games during the regular season.
Everyone has their reasons to cheer for a team during the playoffs. Maybe you love the city they play in, or they wear your favorite colors. If you like to root for former Blackhawks in the postseason, then this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs will give you plenty of options!