Stan Bowman goes back to the well to snag a cheap option on defense.
Stan Bowman has done a decent job of bringing in players from overseas to fill roster gaps for the oft cap-strangled Blackhawks. In recent years he has brought in Artemi Panarin, who has turned out to be better than even Bowman expected and Michal Kempny, who hasn’t been spectacular but has shown some signs of improvement throughout the year. Bowman went back across the pond to sign Jan Rutta out of Czechoslovakia. Rutta will be 27 at the beginning of the season, which makes me believe they have every intention for this guy to start. They say Rutta is somewhat of a late bloomer. He really only had 3 productive seasons in Czechoslovakia, this past season being his best. It is difficult to get a gauge of an international player based on numbers(especially defenseman), but Rutta had 32 points in 46 games last year. His production last year earned him a spot on the Czech World Championship team where he had 1 goal in 8 games. His offensive production could be a good fit on the Blackhawks, they haven’t had a true offensive defenseman since they traded Nick Leddy to the Islanders for Ville Pokka.
Signing Rutta makes it pretty clear that the Blackhawks fully anticipate TVR to be Las Vegas’s expansion draft selection, if they aren’t able to trade him before. If TVR does in fact leave, that leaves Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson as the only players locked into a starting roll.
As of right now the roster is comprised of:
- Duncan Keith
- Brent Seabrook
- Niklas Hjalmarsson
Trevor Van Riemsdyk
- Michal Kempny
- Gustav Forsling
- Michal Rozsival
- Jan Rutta
3 spots are up for grabs between Kempny, Forsling, Roszival, Rutta, and possibly even Ville Pokka. I expect Roszival to have a similar role to last year, a veteran fill-in option, who rarely dresses for games. I also expect Kempny to take a step in the right direction and command one of the 3 remaining spots. He gained a lot of experience playing a North American style of hockey and should be poised for a strong(er) sophomore season. I would like to See Forsling take one of the other spots. In his limited NHL time as a 20 year old, Forsling looked really good. He wasn’t perfect but he wasn’t expected to be at that point. Being sent down for the majority of the year was probably the best thing for him last year. I would expect Jan Rutta to step in and be the other guy. His strong offensive numbers should translate well to the Hawks D. I do think he may have some growing pains transitioning to the NHL like Kempny did, but he should grow a lot throughout the season. Bowman had to get crafty with improving the Hawks with a limited bank roll, and getting a potential starter for under a million bucks is a low risk, high reward scenario the Hawks needed. The Hawks likely wont have the capacity to sign a veteran defenseman, so this is what they have to rely on. Frankly, I don’t hate it. I think the Rutta signing gives them some versatile options in the 2017-18 season. it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.