NHL Free Agency: 6 Late Model Defensemen for the Chicago Blackhawks

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IJuly 18, 2011

NHL Free Agency: 6 Late Model Defensemen for the Chicago Blackhawks

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    Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman may have completed his work on his roster for the summer with the signing of Michael Frolik and Sami Lepisto on Friday. The addition of Lepisto gives Chicago eight defensemen right now: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Steve Montador, Sean O'Donnell, Lepisto and John Scott.

    Seems like a full house, but it doesn't mean the 'Hawks won't make a late addition to the organization.

    It's common practice for teams to secure a veteran for the purpose of mentoring prospects in the AHL.  The 'Hawks have several blue line hopefuls like Shawn Lalonde, Ryan Stanton, and Dylan Olsen who could benefit from an older player with an NHL pedigree.

    That role was served by Jassen Cullimore and Garnet Exelby. Exelby, who was captain down in Rockford, has moved on to the Red Wings organization. Culimore, who spent the first half of the season with the Blackhawks, is an unrestricted free agent.

    While it may not be a headline-grabbing move, picking up a veteran, preferably on a two-way contract, may still be on Bowman's radar before camp opens.

    Here are a few guys that may fit the bill.

1. Jassen Cullimore

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    Age: 38

    NHL Experience: 15 seasons, 812 games

    Cullimore is the incumbent in this list, having played in 100 games in Rockford over the last two seasons. He also saw action last season in an Indian head sweater, notching eight assists in 36 NHL games.

    Cullimore lives in the Chicagoland area and has signed two-way deals with the 'Hawks in each of the last two seasons. Bringing him back another season to guide the way for prospects is certainly an option.

2. Brent Sopel

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    Age 34

    NHL Experience: 12 years, 659 games

    Sopel, who capped off three seasons with the 'Hawks with a Stanley Cup in 2010, played with Atlanta and Montreal last season. Like Cullimore, his family is based in Chicago.

    Sopel is not likely to re-sign with the Canadiens. Whether he would accept a two-way deal or not is another matter.

3. Craig Rivet

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    Age 36

    NHL Experience: 16 years, 923 games

    Rivet was waived by Buffalo in February and claimed by Columbus, with whom he skated in 14 games.

    There's a lot of profession know-how here, and Rivet would also bring a wealth of leadership skills to the table, but it appears that Rivet may consider retirement before lacing them up in the minors.

4. Paul Mara

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    NHL Experience: 12 years, 734 games

    Mara split the 2010-11 season between Anaheim and Montreal and with stops in four other NHL cities. He has been around the block.

    A big guy who could show Olsen how to use his size and clear the front of the net, Mara isn't commanding top dollar on the free agent market and may be inclined to sign a two-way deal.

5. Rob Davison

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    Age: 31

    NHL Experience: 7 seasons, 219 games

    Davison is a big (6'3", 215), physical guy in the mold of Exelby, who provided an edge down in Rockford.  Davison has spent time in four organizations, knows what life in the AHL is like and would add a mean streak to the Rockford defense.

    He has spent most of the last two seasons in the AHL and may not be a bad pickup for use in a tough, physical league.

6. Brian Fahey

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    NHL Experience: Seven games

    Most of Fahey's NHL experience comes in the form of training camp. However, he has logged 446 games in the AHL over eight seasons. He did receive his first NHL minutes in Washington this season, but would add experience and solid play to Rockford.

    The two-way contract is a given in Fahey's case, as he would spend all of his time in the minors.