The imminent return of two key blueliners apparently isn’t stopping Chicago management from pursuing additional defensive depth.
The Chicago Blackhawks will soon be welcoming back defensemen Duncan Keith and Michal Roszsival from injured reserve. Keith’s been sidelined since Oct. 19 by knee surgery, while Rozsival’s still recovering from a gruesome ankle injury suffered during last spring’s playoffs.
While the Blackhawks won six of their last 10 without Keith and Rozsival, they began this week 14th overall in goals-against per game. The imminent return of two key blueliners, however, apparently isn’t stopping management from pursuing additional defensive depth.
The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc and Chris Hines cite a source claiming the Blackhawks are pushing hard to acquire a blueliner. This isn’t a recent search, as the duo note the club’s interest in bolstering their defense dates back to before Keith’s surgery.
Limited salary-cap room complicates the Blackhawks’ search for a rearguard. Once Keith and Rozsival return to the lineup, they’ll be squeezed for cap space. Any deal to add a defenseman could become a dollar-for-dollar option.
Kuc and Hines also note the return of Keith and Rozival will give the Blackhawks nine defensemen. Coach Joel Quenneville admits they’ll have to do something to reduce that number. Demotion could be one way, with Viktor Svedberg or Erik Gustafsson as possible candidates. Another, of course, is via trade.
The Blackhawks could find slim pickings in the trade market right now. In early-October, there was talk that a proposed deal sending left wing Bryan Bickell to the Edmonton Oilers for Nikita Nikitin fell through. TSN’s Bob McKenzie recently claimed several teams were interested in the 29-year-old Nikitin, who’s currently toiling in the minors. No word if the Blackhawks are among them.
Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports Lightning defenseman Matt Carle is still believed on the trade block. Carle, 31, is carrying a $5.5-million annual cap hit through 2017-18. He also has a modified no-trade clause, and told Smith his preference is to stay with the Lightning.
Carle might accept a trade to the defending Stanley Cup champions, but there’s no indication he’s on their radar. Given the ‘Hawks cap limitations, the Lightning will have to pick up a big chunk of Carle’s cap hit or take back an expensive contract.
A more affordable option is St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. A fixture in the rumor mill in recent weeks, the 29-year-old carries a more affordable $3.125 million cap hit. With Kevin Shattenkirk having returned to action, perhaps Blues GM Doug Armstrong will start fielding offers for Gunnarsson.
Calgary Flames defensemen Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell have also figured prominently in recent trade chatter. Wideman’s cap hit ($5.25 million) is nearly as expensive as Carle’s, plus he has a full no-movement clause. Russell, with a $2.6-million cap hit and lacking a trade clause, could be a more tempting target.
The Philadelphia Flyers have apparently attempted to move 26-year-old Luke Schenn for weeks. He’s a UFA in July and carries a $3.6-million cap hit this season. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun speculates the New Jersey Devils could part with Eric Gelinas.
The Blackhawks will face some competition in their quest for a blueliner. The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly sought a left-shooting D-man since the draft, while the Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche are also believed in the market for experienced blueline depth.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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