Chicago Blackhawks' Hinostroza believes he still has plenty left to offer

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks left wing Vinnie Hinostroza (48) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. Hinostroza is back with the Blackhawks after being let go by the Carolina Panthers.

    Chicago Blackhawks left wing Vinnie Hinostroza (48) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. Hinostroza is back with the Blackhawks after being let go by the Carolina Panthers.

 
 
Updated 4/5/2021 6:06 PM

Talk about taking the long way home.

That's definitely what happened for Bartlett native Vinnie Hinostroza, who was traded from Chicago to Arizona in 2018, inked a one-year deal with Florida in October and was sent back to the Blackhawks on Saturday.

 

The final leg of the journey came when Hinostroza jumped in the car with his two dogs and made the 19-hour drive from Ft. Lauderdale.

"(The drive) was tough, but it was worth it," he said after practicing with the team Monday.

Worth it for so many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to revive a career that stalled with Joel Quenneville and the Panthers.

Now the speedy Hinostroza hopes to shift back into high gear for the franchise that drafted him nine years ago.

"He wouldn't have brought me here if he didn't think I could help the team, but also he's not promising anything," Hinostroza said of Jeremy Colliton, who coached him in Rockford for parts of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. "I've never wanted a handout and that's not something I'm looking for. I just want a good opportunity, a fair chance.

"With my hard work and the way I play, I think I'll be able to earn some time."

He wasn't able to earn much of that with the uber-talented Panthers, averaging a mere nine minutes and 50 seconds in nine appearances. Last season, Hinostroza scored five times in 68 games for Arizona, a huge drop-off from the 16-goal, 23-assist campaign he posted for the Coyotes in 2018-19.

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With things headed in the wrong direction, Hinostroza's agent approached Panthers GM Bill Zito about the possibility of a trade.

"Every day you're not playing is another opportunity you're missing to get better and secure a job for yourself and your family," said Hinostroza, who became a father on Feb. 9. "I think (Zito) and my agent had some of those talks about my opportunities there and if it would improve."

With those prospects looking dim, Zito sent Hinostroza to the Hawks for forward Brad Morrison.

Hinostroza skated with Dominik Kubalik and Philipp Kurashev at Fifth Third Arena on Monday as the Hawks prepared for a crucial two-game set with Dallas at the United Center. He scored on Malcolm Subban during a 5-on-5 drill and looked fairly comfortable during the hourlong practice.

"His skating and pace, that's something that when we're good, that's a big part of our game," Colliton said. "We need to get back to that. He can help us there and he does have some skill and he's scored in the league before. He can help on any line ... We've just got to get him up to speed."

It was almost three years ago when Hawks GM Stan Bowman sent the 5-foot-9 forward to the Coyotes as part of the Marian Hossa trade. The move shocked Hinostroza, who was in the process of purchasing a home in Chicago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now he's back. Older and perhaps wiser. With a whole lot left to prove.

Welcomed home by former teammates, of course, but also by a growing family that probably can't believe their luck.

"I was here before and there's 30-something other teams; how do I end up going home again?" Hinostroza wondered. "My mom and fiancee's mom were probably the happiest people in the world now that they'll be able to see the baby whenever they want.

"It's a great fit, but the part I'm most happy about is obviously the hockey. I'm just excited to wear this logo again."

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