When the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Nick Foligno's negotiating rights from the Boston Bruins as part of the deal that also fetched them Taylor Hall, you probably figured a Foligno extension would require some massaging. He could have easily decided to test the open market, which opened on Saturday.
Well, that wasn't the case. Less than 24 hours after the trade, Foligno inked a one-year, $4 million contract with the Blackhawks, who felt confident from the start they'd be able to agree to terms.
"I was open to anything," Foligno said on Saturday in his virtual introductory press conference with the Blackhawks. "The way things went in Boston, everyone had the understanding that a lot of things could change in the offseason, so you had to have an open mind. I was open to that."
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At this point in his NHL career, Foligno is probably Stanley Cup chasing. He's 35 years old, a 16-year veteran, and doesn't have a ring yet.
So why sign with the rebuilding Blackhawks? One reason is more minutes. Foligno's ice time average during his final season with Columbus was 18:09. His average time on ice with Toronto was 15:28 before dropping to 12:27 and 12:21 over the last two preseason with Boston, respectively.
Of course it'd be fun to be part of a Stanley Cup winner, but it might not mean as much if you're in and out of the lineup and don't feel like you're contributing. With Chicago, Foligno can feel like he's an important member of the team, both on and off the ice. And he will be.
"The big thing for me, I was looking for maybe an expanded role if it wasn't back in Boston," Foligno said. "When I saw how Chicago made that play to acquire me and the conversations we had after, I could tell that this was the spot I wanted to be. They checked a lot of the boxes in the conversations we had in what I was looking for.
"I was really re-energized by the opportunity to help build this with Taylor and a few of the other guys on the team that have been there for a little while — with even Corey Perry coming in now. We’re looking forward to that opportunity — that challenge — of setting a standard and trying to get our team to adhere to that and to improve every single day. It lines up with where I'm at in my career and that drive I still have to compete and win. Hopefully it’ll be a great marriage."
It also helps that the Blackhawks gave him more money than anybody else could have afforded. That could limit the potential market for Foligno at the trade deadline, even at a reduced price, but I'm sure Foligno knows that.
The Blackhawks are in the beginning stages of a full-scale rebuild, but that path could be accelerated after drafting Connor Bedard with the No. 1 overall pick. Foligno, who is a former captain with Columbus and is as well-respected a veteran as there is in the NHL, was brought in to help usher in the new core and be a presence inside Chicago's locker room.
"My kids have asked me about Bedard about 1,000 times," Foligno laughed. "For me, the checking of the boxes just means what they see from my role on the team and opportunity I can have. I was looking to maybe move up a little bit in the lineup. Obviously that all comes down to earning it, as well, so I’m a big believer in that. That’s something Luke [Richardson] probably wants to do, as well, is make sure you’re earning your ice time. That’s how you build a culture and a standard.
"Leadership, that gets thrown around a ton. A lot of times with leadership, it’s building relationships. I think that’s where I think I can excel and help and have tried to do in my career. When you have a team that really truly cares for one another, that is excited to come to the rink, that understands the work that needs to go into becoming better but is enjoying themselves when they’re there, those rooms usually start to set a standard and a culture. There’s an excitement that gets built around that. I’m looking forward to doing that with the guys coming in and the guys there."