By Jay Cohen
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks traded Nick Schmaltz to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday night for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini in a swap involving three former first-round picks.
Schmaltz is off to a slow start with two goals and nine assists in 23 games, but he is just 22 years old and coming off a breakout season. He was selected by Chicago with the 20th pick in the 2014 draft.
“Nick is a dynamic forward with top-line potential,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said in a release. “We feel he can be a core player of our team now and into the future. He’s a good complement to our evolving forward group and a rare combination of speed, skill and creativity.”
Schmaltz goes to a team with plenty of familiar faces. The Blackhawks and Coyotes have been frequent trade partners over the years. Just this past summer, Chicago dealt forward Vinnie Hinostroza and defenseman Jordan Oesterle to Arizona as part of a multiplayer deal that shifted Marian Hossa’s contract to the Coyotes’ salary cap.
Schmaltz had 21 goals and 31 assists in 78 games last season. He appeared to be headed for a new deal with Chicago, but the Blackhawks seemed to sour on his potential a bit with his lack of production so far this year. He was a healthy scratch for their 4-0 loss at Edmonton on Nov. 1.
Chicago is looking for a spark after missing the playoffs last season for the first time in a decade. Longtime coach Joel Quenneville was fired Nov. 6 with the team on its way to an eight-game slide.
The Blackhawks are hoping the 21-year-old Strome will benefit from a change of scenery after a tough start to his NHL career with the Coyotes. He went No. 3 overall in 2015, taken ahead of budding stars Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Mathew Barzal and Thomas Chabot, but the 6-foot-3 forward has just seven goals and nine assists in 47 career games.
Perlini, 22, has two goals and four assists in 22 games this season. He set career highs with 17 goals and 13 assists in 74 games last season. Perlini was the No. 12 pick in the 2014 draft.