Carpenter signed a team-friendly three-year, $3 million contract with the Blackhawks last summer in free agency and played in 69 of the team’s 70 games this season.
After the Chicago Blackhawks saw an absurd amount of players rotate in and out of their fourth line throughout the entire 2018-19 season, it became clear that the front office needed to address this issue in free agency following the team’s second consecutive playoff absence. Well, on July 1, 2019, the Hawks did just that by signing former Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Carpenter to a three-year deal worth just $1 million per season. Carpenter played an essential role in the Golden Knights’ success in their first two years as a franchise, as he frequently moved around the lineup from center to wing while also seeing consistent time on the penalty kill.
Carpenter came over to the Blackhawks for the 2019-20 campaign and immediately filled a gap that had been empty since the 2015 Stanley Cup championship. Not only was Carpenter able to play all three forward positions, but he also could play with any type of player, as he saw time with both Patrick Kane and David Kampf at points throughout the season. The undrafted forward finally settled in during the second half of the year on a line with Kampf and Matthew Highmore, and the trio remained together as the Hawks made a push for the postseason down the stretch.
In total, Carpenter played in 69 games for the Blackhawks this season, tallying three goals and 12 assists for 15 points with a career-high 14:04 average time on ice. The Oviedo, Florida native racked up a career-high 28 penalty minutes, and he had a career-worst 3.8 shooting percentage as well, so it was a bit of a rollercoaster year for the 29-year-old veteran. Carpenter also saw an overwhelming drop in his faceoff-win percentage, as he won just 43.1 percent of his faceoffs after winning 52.6 percent in 2018-19. Although, this dropoff is likely because Carpenter took a whopping 610 faceoffs this season, which is over 200 more than his previous single-season career-high. Right around the mid-way point of the season, the Blackhawks decided to play Carpenter on the wing more, as they finally realized that he is not primarily a center at the NHL level. Carpenter can still come in and win a faceoff if a player gets kicked out of the dot, which is an enormous luxury for the Hawks to have on their roster.
Looking at Carpenter’s possession numbers, and they were among some of the worst of his five-year NHL career. Carpenter posted a career-low 47.1 Corsi percentage this season, and he was also on the ice for 24 goals for to 33 against at even strength. The 6-foot, 200-pound, forward did play mostly with Kampf, Highmore, and a rotation of Rockford IceHogs players this season, which likely explains his poor goal differential.
Overall, Carpenter played a crucial role in the bottom six and on the penalty kill for the Blackhawks this season. Carpenter may have struggled in the face-off department, but that is only because he is not a true center, as his versatile skill set still gives the Hawks a tremendous advantage. There were also stretches throughout the season where Carpenter was one of the most noticeable guys in the lineup, so if the Hawks can get a few more solid depth pieces around him in the future, then he can thrive in his role much like he did with the 2018 Western Conference Champion Golden Knights. When the Blackhawks take on the Edmonton Oilers in their best-of-five play-in series, look for Carpenter to skate on the team’s fourth line along with Kampf and Highmore, right where he was for most of the second half.
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