A Max Shalunov Update, Sending Love to Troy Murray, and Other Blackhawks Bullets
It’s the start of another week in August and another week closer to the beginning of training camp for the Chicago Blackhawks. This offseason has made the anticipation for the start of the 2021-22 season grow for me, since we were first told to envision this team continuing to go through a rebuilding process for next season, but now with the moves made this summer, the “rebuild” is off and going for playoff contention is back on.
• Unfortunately, this week starts with some tough news as the team announces that WGN Radio broadcaster and former Blackhawk Troy Murray is battling cancer. The Blackhawks and team CEO Danny Wirtz released statements on Murray this morning…
#Blackhawks radio color analyst Troy Murray announces he has been diagnosed with cancer.
Statement from Troy and CEO Danny Wirtz: pic.twitter.com/OeBBMNzgY3
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) August 9, 2021
• Murray spent 688 of his 915 NHL games with the Blackhawks organization, winning the 1985-86 Selke Trophy as the league’s Best Defensive Forward and finished his career in 1996, winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. Murray has been the radio color commentator for WGN Radio broadcasts of Blackhawks games since the 2006-07 season, and was paired with Pat Foley on the TV broadcasts in the same role from November of 2003 to the end of the 2005-06 season.
• The outpouring of support on social media for Murray has been a testament to his career on the ice and his character off the ice. We here at Bleacher Nation want to send all the love and positive vibes to Troy and his family as he goes through this challenging time in his life.
• From the White Whale files, Scott Powers reports that 2011 Blackhawks Draft Pick Max Shalunov has signed a new three-year deal to stay in the KHL with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Max Shalunov has agreed to a three-year contract to remain in the KHL. A source says he’s signing with Lokomotiv. His contract does include an opt-out clause next season to join the NHL. Shalunov’s agent said Shalunov is still hopeful to eventually sign with the Blackhawks.
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) August 8, 2021
• Shalunov has been tied to multiple reports over the years of maybe joining the Blackhawks on an NHL contract. Over the past few seasons, it felt like Shalunov and the Blackhawks would come together on terms and he would be able to jump into the NHL lineup right away after failing to make an impact with the organization back in his only professional North American stint in the 2013-14 season.
Shalunov did have an offer from an NHL team, but it was from one he was not interested in playing for, a source said. The Blackhawks did discuss signing Shalunov, but there isn’t the cap or roster space for him at this time.
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) August 8, 2021
• With Russian players drafted into the NHL, the team will hold that players’ draft rights indefinitely until they are signed to an NHL contract. The Blackhawks will continue to hold his rights as he continues his career in the KHL. He’s played the past four seasons with CSKA Moskva, winning the Gagarin Cup in 2019 and reaching the Gagarin Cup Final again last season.
• So, can we finally be done with the “will he or won’t he” now? Shalunov is 28-years-old, turning 29 this upcoming January and has been a career half-point-per-game player in the KHL as a professional. I just don’t see the point in holding out hope for Shalunov to join the Blackhawks any more. He’s not a prospect, he’s not an All-Star, he’s not special. Sorry, Scott.
• Changing gears to players that will actually play for the Blackhawks, Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times talked with Adam Gaudette this offseason after being a trade deadline acquisition and signing a new deal for the 2021-22 season with Chicago.
Adam Gaudette has been shadowed by an offseason full of big additions, but he could be a sneaky breakout player for the Blackhawks next season.
At the least, he's fascinating to talk to and learn from. This Gaudette story is one of my favorites of 2021:https://t.co/r8WnzBfkoj
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) August 8, 2021
• Gaudette has made major changes to himself physically, changing his diet and his workout regime after finding out he had digestive issues which caused him to not being able to play with the strength he wanted at the NHL level. Now that he’s figured out his physical health, Gaudette hopes to be a breakout player with the Blackhawks next season and I could definitely see it happening in a middle or bottom-six forward role.
• Chicago is going to have a lot of options with middle-six forward this season, with plenty having something to prove. Brandon Hagel just signed a new three-year deal and will need to show that his breakout rookie season wasn’t a fluke. Philipp Kursahev is also out to build upon his breakout rookie season last year. Dylan Strome is going out there next season trying to prove that he can again be the player we saw during the 2018-19 season. Henrik Borgström is coming back to the NHL after playing last season in Europe, out to prove that he can still hang in the league and that he can be the creative playmaker he was in his college days at the University of Denver. These are just a few players looking to have breakout years and if a few pan-out, the Blackhawks could very well be in the hunt for a postseason berth in 2021-22.
• There has been a lot happening, on the ice, this offseason that has me more excited for the Blackhawks this upcoming season. You can take the annual fan survey from The Athletic here…
It’s that time of year. Take our latest Blackhawks fan survey https://t.co/87hRdZYWNE
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) August 9, 2021
• They’d love your feedback.
• Or you could go the route that this disgruntled fan went, handwriting what I can only assume is a spam email, to Phillip Thompson of the Chicago Tribune…
• I’ve never seen anything like that. Yeesh.
• Speaking of seeing new things, the NCAA is allowing players to profit off of their name and likeness for the first time ever with “NIL” agreements. The first of its kind has reached the NHL as D’Eriq King, the quarterback for the University of Miami, has an agreement with the Florida Panthers.
Making moves ✍️
D'Eriq King (@DeriqKing_) has signed as our first-ever FLA Athlete, becoming the first collegiate athlete to sign an NIL agreement with a pro sports team!
📝 » https://t.co/3dZAMi8rlX pic.twitter.com/sr85OmTfPq
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) August 9, 2021
• According to the team:
King will appear at Panthers games and events and work closely with the Panthers digital and social media teams to produce content to engage fanbases across South Florida. Additionally, King will work with the Panthers to develop a merchandise collection, co-branded art and his own exclusive BB&T Center concession menu item, which will be available at all Panthers home games and events for the upcoming season.
This will likely open the door to more college athletes crossing over sports and teaming-up with professional clubs. We are entering some very new and interesting times with “amateur” athletics.
• Crossing over content with amateur athletes and teams from Florida, check out this awesome moment when Brayden Point brought the Stanley Cup to a youth hockey game in Alberta…
So cool to have Brayden Point show up with the Stanley Cup to the @STIXHockey U15 game at @cardelrecsouth2 on Saturday. Great to see he brought the cup back to where it all began for him.#yyc #alberta #hockey #tblightning #hockeyisforeveryone #canada #stixhockey pic.twitter.com/Fa16sb2j2U
— Rick Snelgrove (@SnelgroveRick) August 8, 2021
• That’s a moment those kids will never forget. Awesome.
• And mentioning the Stanley Cup Champion Lightning, Jon Cooper will be heading up the coaching staff for Team Canada at the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, assuming the NHL will be sending coaches and players to the games.
Beijing2022 coaching staff ✅
Jon Cooper will lead Canada’s Men’s Olympic Team as head coach, working alongside assistants Bruce Cassidy, Peter DeBoer and Barry Trotz.@BCHockey_Source | @HEOhockey | @OHFHockey | @hockeymanitoba
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) August 9, 2021
• And finally, news from around the league today, the Philadelphia Flyers have signed goaltender Carter Hart to a three-year contract extension with a $3.979M AAV cap hit.
OFFICIAL: Philly got Hart. https://t.co/1N2uUSGj8Q
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) August 9, 2021
• Fun nod in Hart’s $3.979M cap hit to him wearing No. 79, but what would have been an extra $63,000 over three years to make it an even $4M per year?
• That will do it for today. Hope you can enjoy your rainy Monday!