The Chicago Blackhawks will host the Los Angeles Kings tonight. The Blackhawks are fresh from snapping their eight game losing streak, blowing the Washington Capitals out of the water last Saturday with a 7-1 win. But the Blackhawks will be without one of their off-season acquisitions, as they traded D Michal Kempny to the Capitals for a conditional 3rd round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
The Blackhawks signed Kempny on May 23, 2016. He played seven seasons between Slovak and Czech leagues and one season for Avangard Omsk of the KHL before being signed by Chicago. He scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 30, 2016 against Cam Ward and the Carolina Hurricanes. On May 27, 2017, Stan Bowman signed him to a one-year extension. Kempny played a total of 81 games for the Blackhawks from 2016 until today, garnering a total of 15 points (3G 12A). Kempny is a UFA this summer
The Blackhawks and the Kings are both currently on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned. The Kings are two points out of the third spot in the Pacific Division and the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks, for their part, are in far worse shape. They are currently 11 points out of the second wildcard spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.
After playing seven games where they looked lost and listless at best, the Blackhawks have actually been playing well as of late. Despite last Thursday’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks altogether played a net-positive game, highlighted by the goals scored by Duncan Keith and Brandon Saad. It was Keith’s first goal in almost a calendar year. Saad’s goal broke a goalless slump that started January 7th.
Saturday’s rout of the Capitals is also noteworthy due to the fact that it was the first time that a team won three games by six goals or more in a single season since 2011-2012.
With the recent uptick in their play, coupled with the Kempny trade, Stan Bowman is still in some sort of limbo as far as the trade deadline is concerned. Although previously stating that the Blackhawks will not be buyers in the deadline, Bowman has been known to keep his cards close to his chest. The team has been “showcasing” Kempny as of late, as well as fowards Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma. With Bowman fetching a third rounder for Kempny, you have to think that he enters any conversation about Wingels or Bouma with much more leverage. There have also been rumors about the availability of Artem Anisimov, although moving him would be morw difficult, since his no movement clause doesn’t expire until July 1st.
The Kempny trade also comes after an unfortunate incident during Saturday’s game. Four Blackhawks fans were ejected from the game after taunting Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelley with a racial slur whilst he was serving a penalty during the third period. The Blackhawks organization quickly issued a statement condemning the acts and apologized to both Smith-Pelley and the Washington Capitals, while stating their commitment “to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games” and ensuring that such actions “will not be tolerated.
The Capitals, for their part, issued their own statement, thanking the Blackhawks for their swift actions regarding the situation. They also stated that “such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society.” For the most part, hockey Twitter has been supportive of Smith-Pelley, calling the actions of the ejected fans “disgusting” and “abhorrent”.