By Jim Hagerty
CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks have traded Tanner Kero to the Vancouver Canucks, the team announced Sunday.
In exchange for Kero, who emerged as the top offensive player for the Rockford IceHogs during the 2015-16 season, Chicago will get 26-year-old forward Michael Chaput.
Kero went undrafted out of Michigan Tech University and signed a two-year contract with the Blackhawks on April 2, 2015. He skated in six regular-season games and six in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Hancock, Michigan, product exploded for 20 goals for the IceHogs and appeared in 17 games for the Blackhawks in 2105-16. He cracked Chicago’s roster out of training camp the following two seasons but was waived by Chicago after spending most of his time as a healthy scratch in 2017-18. Kero wasn’t claimed off waivers and returned to Rockford in February.
Kero registered 22 points (8G, 14A) in 72 regular-season games with the Blackhawks. In an IceHogs sweater, he logged 40 goals and 44 assists in 130 contests.
A 2010 Philadelphia Flyers draft pick, Chaput split last season with the Canucks and Utica Comets of the American Hockey League. In 55 regular-season games with the Comets last season, the IIe Bizard, Quebec, native finished second on the club with 42 points (17G, 25A). He added two goals and one assist in five Calder Cup Playoff games.
A formidable center, Chaput won 58.1 percent of his faceoffs in nine games with Vancouver last year. He won 52.7 percent of his draws and scored four goals in 68 games with the Canucks the previous campaign.
The trade seems like an even swap, as Chaput and Kero have proven to be fringe forwards whose NHL stock has fallen considerably. Chaput could play a checking-line role with Chicago along with Andreas Martinsen, but will likely spend the bulk of the season in the AHL. Kero was only a minor factor in Rockford last season. He turned in 8 goals and 20 assists with the IceHogs after scoring once in eight games with the big club.
The trade is the first by the Blackhawks this offseason. Insiders say other players could be moved as Chicago looks for a goaltender. Corey Crawford is expected to be ready by training camp, however, whether backup Anton Forsberg will even be with the organization by then remains unclear.
Forsberg went 10-16-4 last season while AHLers Collin Delia, J-F Berube and Jeff Glass proved to be more worthy of the No. 2 spot. If Chicago looks to Rockford to fill it, Delia could be the early favorite. He emerged as a worthy pro in his rookie year, moving up from the ECHL. Berube has more NHL experience but his 3–6–1 record and 3.78 GAA could see him in Rockford along with Matt Tomkins to start the season. Glass is an unrestricted free agent. R.