This will not be a revisionist history post. I promise. Nick Schmaltz has been a STUD this year for the Coyotes. Right now he’s playing with Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller. That is the obvious #1 line for the Coyotes and Schmaltz has produced. He’s cooled off a bit from his start of the year where he was one of the top scoring centers in the league but he’s now got 19 points in 25 games and the Coyotes are FIRMLY in a playoff position right now. They’re 2nd in the Pacific Division and it wouldn’t shock me if they won the division outright before it’s all said and done. Schmaltz has been a big part of that.
Having said that…
This is what it came down to for me. This type of effort and this type of contract
It felt like Nick Schmaltz wasn’t a cultural fit in Chicago. The Blackhawks are clearly transitioning from an era built around 19, 88, and 2. And if Bowman and company were going to commit 7 years and a almost $6M AAV to a player they want to build around then they HAD to get it right. Schmaltz hadn’t shown enough and that he’s a good who can be a part of the next leadership core. Dylan Strome isn’t as talented as Schmaltz. I don’t have any problem saying that. When Schmaltz plays through the middle of the ice and flies through the neutral zone he’s like a poor man’s McDavid. Not to many guys can make plays at top speed like that. We just didn’t see it often enough in Chicago. He was deferential. He wasn’t ever going to be an alpha type leader here. I don’t really believe that Strome is either, to be honest, but Strome LOVES hockey. Strome wants to be great in a way that doesn’t seem to live in Schmaltz. If I am trying to rebuild or build a championship culture, I would rather have Strome on the team as a my 2C or 3C than Schmaltz as my 1C.
And I think the Hawks realized that Strome was never going to be a true 1C on a championship caliber team. He is a perfect complimentary piece. If they thought he was then they probably don’t draft Dach 3rd overall. This is what I said at the time of the trade.
Strome has WILDLY exceed my expectations. I do think he can be the 2C on a good team, but if he’s your 3C then you’re probably a GREAT team. I would also expect Strome to come in a little cheaper than Schmaltz. If his best friend Debrincat signed for $6.4M AAV with a 40 goal season under his belt then it’d make sense for Strome to sign a similar bridge deal closer to maybe $5M AAV. Going with Toews, Dach, and Strome up the middle for the forseeable future is a GREAT thing. You add Mitchell and Boqvist to the blueline and then all of a sudden you have a young core with the right stuff from a character perspective.
A year later I would do this trade 100 times in a row and not think twice about it. And that is before you consider the fact that the Blackhawks turned Perlini into Alec Regula who seems like a decent prospect for the London Knights. He’s over a point per game and a strong candidate for Team USA in the WJC. I gave this trade a passing grade at the time, but every day that goes by I like it more. I don’t like Stan Bowman, but he did a good job on this one.