Chicago Blackhawks trade Anisimov to Senators

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Chicago Blackhawks traded center Artem Anisimov, shown here after scoring a goal last season, to the Ottawa Senators for 31-year-old forward Zack Smith.

    The Chicago Blackhawks traded center Artem Anisimov, shown here after scoring a goal last season, to the Ottawa Senators for 31-year-old forward Zack Smith. Associated Press/Dec. 21, 2018

 
 
Updated 7/17/2019 11:39 AM

Ever since the Blackhawks were swept out of the Stanley Cup playoffs by Nashville in 2017, one of the biggest knocks on them has been a lack of physicality.

Well, that certainly doesn't figure to be a problem next season as Stan Bowman has reshaped his roster by adding numerous hard-nosed, aggressive, gritty players over the last 4-6 weeks.

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The latest addition is 31-year-old forward/center Zack Smith, whom the Hawks acquired from Ottawa on Tuesday in a deal that sent center Artem Anisimov to the Senators.

"Zack brings a different skill set to the table -- something we probably need a little bit more of," Bowman said at Fifth Third Arena as the Hawks conducted Day 2 of their development camp. "Versatile player. … He certainly plays with a competitive side to him. He plays with an edge."

The same cannot be said of Anisimov, who scored 77 goals in 291 games across four seasons for the Hawks. The Russian center also won just 45.1 percent of his faceoffs during his time in Chicago.

Smith, meanwhile, has just 94 goals in 612 games -- all with Ottawa -- but he has won 50.7 percent of his faceoffs, doled out 1,206 hits and takes great pride in playing whatever role he's asked to play.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hawks' scouts have had their eye on Smith for awhile, and when new assistant coach Marc Crawford -- who was with the Senators for the past three seasons -- gave his stamp of approval, Bowman had no problem pulling the trigger.

"When Marc came on board, I picked his brain a little bit and asked how he would fit in and what does he bring to the table," Bowman said. "And he raved about him as a person, as a teammate, as a leader and he loves his style of play too. He thinks that could enhance our team game."

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Smith, who is signed for two more seasons with a cap hit of $3.25 million, scored 25 goals in 2015-16 playing on a line with Mark Stone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He then added another 16 goals the next season.

The 2017-18 campaign was a trying one, however, as Smith dealt with injuries and was even put on waivers. Smith used it as a learning experience and he bounced back with a decent 2018-19 season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I felt when I wasn't scoring that I wasn't contributing," said Smith, who had 9 goals and 19 assists in 70 games. "At this point I know what my game brings. I pride myself in being a defensively responsible player. I've learned not to worry too much about the goal production or the point production."

It will be interesting to see where Smith fits in as the Hawks already have Jonathan Toews, Dylan Strome and David Kampf at three of the four center spots. After that, it figures to be a mix of Ryan Carpenter, Smith and perhaps Andrew Shaw.

Oh, and there's that Kirby Dach guy too -- if he happens to make the team.

"It's hard to map out some lines and who's going to be in what spot, but we have different looks that we can throw at the other team," Bowman said. "Part of training camp is going to be to figure out where does everybody fit and what combinations work best."

Asked where he prefers to play, Smith pulled off a veteran move and made the media contingent laugh by saying: "I'm just excited beyond words to be playing for Chicago, so if they want to put me in goal or on D, I'd be happy with that too.

"Center or wing is fine with me."

Along with Carpenter and defensemen Olli Maata and Calvin de Haan, Smith also figures to help shore up a penalty-kill unit that was the worst in the NHL last season.

"I take a lot of pride in it," Smith said. "I enjoy it -- playing against top lines and killing penalties. I think I've improved on that, especially over the last couple years.

"Talking to Stan and Jeremy (Colliton) this morning, they said the same thing: We want to be more responsible defensively and that's why we brought you in. I'm more than happy to accept that role and help them in any way possible."

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