A healthy Nick Schmaltz returns to the United Center more than a year after his shocking trade to the Coyotes

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A healthy Nick Schmaltz returns to the United Center more than a year after his shocking trade to the Coyotes

Post by admin » Mon Dec 09, 2019 7:34 am

The knee that gave out about a year ago is healed.

The family that loves to watch Nick Schmaltz play hockey at the United Center is in town.

The sweater? That has a howling Coyote on the front now.

As much as Schmaltz insists he’s over the Blackhawks trading him to the Coyotes on Nov. 25, 2018, the surprise of discovering that the team that drafted him, nurtured him and gave him his first NHL opportunity had dealt him isn’t such a distant memory.

“Probably for the first couple weeks it was still shocking and different to be part of a new organization,” said Schmaltz, who on Sunday played at the United Center with the Coyotes for the first time since the trade. “But as you get more comfortable with everyone, I would say a couple months before it sunk in. But I felt comfortable right away.”

The deal that sent Schmaltz to the Coyotes for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini is turning out to be a good one for both teams. Perlini didn’t pan out for the Hawks, who moved him to the Red Wings for a prospect in October, but Strome and Schmaltz have moved into key roles for the respective teams.

Strome has blossomed with the Hawks while Schmaltz has shown the Coyotes he has a long and productive career ahead of him. But his introduction to the Coyotes didn't come without a hiccup.

A month after the trade, Schmaltz suffered a knee injury and underwent surgery that ended his season after he had put a charge into the Coyotes’ season. They won their first four games after the trade and Schmaltz went on to have nine points (four goals, five assists) before his season ended.

“It was tough,” Schmaltz said. “It wasn’t like one specific thing that blew out my knee or anything, it was just nagging me over time. Obviously it was tough, I had to sit out 40 games or whatever. So that was frustrating, especially because the team was doing well and I was feeling really comfortable. But happy to be back and we got off to a good start so far.”

Despite the knee injury, the Coyotes had seen enough of Schmaltz. They signed him to to a seven-year, $40.95 million contract extension just as the season was ending to avoid him going into the offseason as a restricted free agent.

The Coyotes entered Sunday’s game with a 17-10-4 record, good for second place in the Pacific Division. Schmaltz had a great start to the season and is leading the Coyotes with 20 points, though he has cooled off considerably. Entering Sunday he had one goal and eight assists in his last 21 games.

His last point at the United Center came on Nov. 8, 2018, when he scored his 29th and final goal with the Hawks. Getting another one would be a great way to cap a game that has been on his mind since the schedule came out last summer.

“Got a lot of family in town,” Schmaltz said. “Obviously, some good relationships with some guys on the team. Looking forward to it for a little while now and it’ll be fun and I’m just going to enjoy it and play as hard as I can.”

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