No longer at a standstill, the surging Chicago Blackhawks suddenly are poised to sprint up the standings thanks to a flurry of moves made over the past month.
The latest semi-bombshell came Wednesday when general manager Stan Bowman shipped Richard Panik and Laurent Dauphin to Arizona for 22-year-old winger Anthony Duclair and former Hawks defenseman Adam Clendening.
"I really like the way he skates," Bowman said of Duclair, who scored 20 goals two seasons ago and has 9 in 33 games this season. "He brings the ability to be an electrifying player. … That element of speed and youth was really important to us."
Bowman has had his eye on Duclair since last year. He said talks with Coyotes GM John Chayka revved up about 7-10 days ago and everything came together Wednesday afternoon.
Duclair will be available to play against Winnipeg on Friday.
The trade is a coup for the Hawks on several levels, not the least of which is shedding Panik's $2.8 million deal that runs through next season. It also gives them a player in Duclair that they can control for several years since he will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Perhaps most important, it achieves Bowman's goal of getting younger and faster in a league that had seemingly passed them by. The Hawks' roster has 13 players who are under 26; a year ago at this time it had four.
"In a matter of a year we've been able to get considerably younger, but we're still a team that wants to win," Bowman said. "We're not playing for the future. But the game today is predicated on being able to skate. It's really hard to play if you don't have the quickness and the speed."
This youth movement began when the Hawks called up Vinnie Hinostroza from Rockford when they were 12-11-5 on Dec. 7. Since then, David Kampf, Tomas Jurco and Erik Gustafsson earned call-ups, while Tanner Kero and Cody Franson went to the IceHogs.
Bowman attended several of Rockford's games this season and said he couldn't help but make room for the new players.
"They stand out when you watch them play and they make you say, 'they deserve in the NHL,' " Bowman said. "So then you have to try and make it work."
Panik's fall from grace was quick and shocking.
Acquired on Jan. 3, 2016, for Jeremy Morin, Panik slowly worked his way up the lineup and scored 22 goals last season. He then signed a two-year, $5.6 million deal in the off-season and began this campaign skating with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad.
Panik scored 5 goals in the first nine games but then went through an awful dry spell that finally ended Tuesday when he scored at Ottawa for the first time in 2½ months.
"He had a great year last year and probably hasn't had the consistency he wanted or we did this year," Bowman said. "But he still has a lot of good attributes to his game, so hopefully he'll do well there."