By Stephen Whyno
AP Hockey Writer
For almost two years, the Arizona Coyotes tried to trade Anthony Duclair.
Now, the Chicago Blackhawks hope he’s the right fit for them.
The Blackhawks acquired the talented but inconsistent 22-year-old winger from the Coyotes in a four-player trade Wednesday. Chicago also got them defenseman Adam Clendening and sent winger Richard Panik and minor league forward Laurent Dauphin to Arizona.
Duclair has nine goals and six assists in 33 games this season, scoring in each of his last two games after reports surfaced that he had asked for a trade.
“It’s gone back for a few years now where the team wasn’t particularly happy with the player and the player wasn’t particularly happy with the team and we worked through some things, tried a lot of different approaches in a lot of different ways,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said on a conference call. “I hope he has success in Chicago and does good things.”
Acquiring Duclair is another step for Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman to try to shake up a perennial contender fighting to maintain a playoff position. They put defenseman Cody Franson on waivers Monday and sent him to the minors and have shuffled around their roster in recent weeks.
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“We’re trying to get faster and really add youth to our team as well,” Bowman said. “We’ve got a lot of young players. I think he’s going to fit into that group. You can’t just have a group of 23 young players. You’ve got the veteran guys, too, that are some of our best players. It’s sort of that combination. I really don’t look at this as a deadline move as much as just trying to get better.”
Chicago is the third NHL organization for Duclair, whom the Coyotes acquired from New York in 2015 in the deal that sent Keith Yandle to the Rangers. Duclair had 20 goals and 24 assists in 81 games in 2015-16, then had only five goals and 10 assists in 58 games last season.
“There’s a lot of things that go into a trade,” Chayka said. “Some of them are readily apparent. You see Anthony play and his speed and skill is obvious to everyone. There’s some things that I think should stay behind closed doors. It was a long process. We went through a lot of different approaches and a lot of different things through two different (coaching) staffs here and at the end of the day just felt that for both sides it was best to move on.”
Duclair’s agent, Kent Hughes, said: “I think we are on the same page in terms of a trade being best for both sides. John was great to deal with and Anthony hopes the trade ends up working out for both sides.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville announced before his team’s game against the Minnesota Wild that Panik was out of the lineup and had been traded for Duclair.
Panik, 26, has six goals and 10 assists in 37 games after signing a $5.6 million, two-year contract.
“I guess they weren’t happy with my performance,” Panik said.
His goal Tuesday night in an 8-2 victory at Ottawa was his first since Oct. 21, ending a 27-game drought.
“When you look at goal-scorers, sometimes there’s a variation in how they’re scoring,” Chayka said. “We feel like some of it this year has just been some unluckiness. We still think he’s playing a well-rounded game, still think he’s doing a lot of good things that he was doing in the past. His shooting percentage from areas he’s scored in the past is just slightly down this year. We expect that to bounce back.”
By trading Panik and his $2.8 million hit for Duclair’s $1.2 million and pending restricted free agency, the Blackhawks clear valuable salary-cap space this season and next.
“That was a nice added bonus,” Bowman said. “It wasn’t the motivation for the trade. We like Anthony’s game, but sure, that’s a nice side effect.”