Niklas Hjalmarsson's chances of starting another season in Chicago may have taken a hit with the signing of Michal Rozsival Tuesday.
Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman's House of the Blue Line just got a little more crowded. The addition of another veteran defenseman may mean that someone is on the way out.
Chicago's signing of Michal Rozsival to a one-year, $2 million contract adds one more name to the list comprising the 'Hawks defensive corps. It would appear that Rozsival, along with Johnny Oduya and Sheldon Brookbank, were signed to provide veteran know-how on the back end.
Bowman signed these players to skate whenever the season gets underway. That could mean the departure of at least one current Blackhawks defenseman.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook aren't going anywhere, as Bowman hasn't and likely won't sign a player of their caliber. That narrows the field to four: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Steve Montador and Dylan Olsen.
Montador has three years and a $2.75 million cap hit attached to him right now and is coming off of a concussion that largely kept him off the ice since early February. Hjalmarsson's $3.5 million cap number is one the 'Hawks may wish to rid themselves of if it is possible.
Leddy and Olsen are thought to be a big part of the team's future. However, it seems unlikely that Chicago will keep nine defensemen on the roster. There seems to be at least one odd man out.
Olson could be earmarked to start the season in Rockford, which thins the herd a bit. That would still leave eight defenders for the 'Hawks to carry. Until a new contract is reached, all we may be able to do is speculate on any trades Bowman may choose to make.
What defenseman is the best bet to be moved before the season starts?
Unless Bowman plays against type and parts with some of his young talent, you have to think either Hjalmarsson or Montador is going to be somewhere other than Chicago. Bowman has buried some mistakes in past seasons in Rockford or in Europe. He could probably get Montador through waivers and to the AHL for some cap relief if the option was still available to him in a new CBA.
The player on the move could turn out to be Hjalmarsson, the player who has seemingly been on the trade block for most of the summer. Hjalmarsson may be harder to replace than we think, though his salary is a little high for what he has brought to the table the last two years.
Hjalmarsson's departure could leave Chicago with a top pairing followed by a host of solid third-pairing types who will have to step up to split the minutes Seabrook and Keith don't play. Expecting players to step up for the departed Brian Campbell didn't pan out as hoped a year ago. Fans hoping for Hjalmarsson to be sent packing may be careful of what they wish for.
In an offseason that was relatively quiet for the most part, the inking of the 34-year-old Roszival came as a bit of a surprise. Like Bowman's other additions on the blue line, Roszival brings similar expectations. Can he come in and be a consistent contributor to the defensive landscape?
That answer lies at the end of the season. A more pressing concern is how the current state of the defense will be changing as the regular season approaches.