The thought of the Chicago Blackhawks signing a veteran defenseman or two this summer season shouldn’t be dominated out. They’ve roughly simply $45.9 million dedicated to subsequent yr’s group, so that they’ll must hit the cap ground.
The Blackhawks may use assistance on their left facet. Except for Jarred Tinordi, they might be counting on prospects reminiscent of Kevin Korchinski, Alex Vlasic, Wyatt Kaiser, and Isaak Phillips. Although all 4 gamers have nice potential and might be a part of their subsequent aggressive roster, signing a veteran short-term would take away some stress, and the Blackhawks have the cap area to overpay if want be. Listed below are three defensemen who’re logical targets for Chicago this free company.
Brian Dumoulin has been a staple of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blue line because the staff received back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. Nevertheless, the 31-year-old might be transferring on from Pittsburgh for the primary time in his NHL profession. Dumoulin skated in all 82 video games this previous season whereas serving as an alternate captain and recorded a career-high 25 factors (one purpose, 24 assists). He additionally completed third on the staff in common time on ice with 20:38, solely behind Kris Letang (24:51) and Jeff Petry (22:21).
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Very like Seth Jones and Connor Murphy, Dumoulin would convey nice management to the Blackhawks. Given his championship expertise, he’d doubtless be within the combine for an alternate captain function. Dumoulin has by no means been a lot of an offensive menace as he has hit the 20-point mark simply twice in his NHL profession, however he has good shutdown talents. Not together with their prospects, he’d change into the Blackhawks’ high left-handed defenseman.
Realizing the Penguins missed the playoffs this season for the primary time in Dumoulin’s profession, it’d be comprehensible if he wished to hitch a contending membership and take extra of a decreased function. He’s additionally turning 32 in September, and the Blackhawks would must be cautious about his time period, understanding Korchinski, Vlasic, and others may change into full-time NHLers as early as subsequent season. His expertise makes him an intriguing goal nonetheless.
A veteran of practically 900 NHL video games, Dmitry Kulikov might be one other practical goal for the Blackhawks as a left-handed shot. The 32-year-old is coming off his 14th season, skating in 67 mixed regular-season video games with the Anaheim Geese and Penguins whereas recording 16 factors (three objectives, 13 assists). Earlier than heading to Pittsburgh, Kulikov ended his Geese’ tenure with a minus-11 and 44 giveaways; nonetheless, these numbers had been principally a byproduct of enjoying on an terrible Anaheim staff. Simply two seasons in the past (2021-22), Kulikov was a relentless for the Minnesota Wild, skating in 80 video games whereas posting a formidable plus-23.
Kulikov is not more than a journeyman at this level in his profession, having performed for eight organizations since making his NHL debut in 2009. That stated, he stays a serviceable depth defenseman and can be a low-risk addition. At 6-foot-1 and 201 kilos, he additionally brings good dimension together with a bodily presence as he had 96 hits final season between the Geese and Penguins. Just like Max Domi, the Blackhawks may signal him for one yr and hope he has sufficient of a bounce again to maneuver him on the deadline for draft and/or prospect capital.
Like Dumoulin, although, it’d be comprehensible if Kulikov wished to signal with a contender. He has made the playoffs in simply seven of his 14 seasons and given his endurance within the league, it’d make complete sense if he wished to chase his first Cup. His expertise, nonetheless, would complement the Blackhawks’ younger left facet.
With Jones, Murphy, and Nikita Zaitsev, the Blackhawks’ proper facet might be set, however Erik Johnson is not less than price exploring. After 13 years with the Colorado Avalanche, the 2006 first-overall decide is hitting the open market, and he might be an excellent addition to Chicago’s management group. Like Dumoulin, he brings championship pedigree and might be one other commerce candidate if the Blackhawks signal him to a one-year contract.
Regardless of by no means fairly dwelling as much as his first-overall potential, Johnson has remained an efficient stay-at-home defenseman, particularly since becoming a member of the Avalanche in 2011. Accidents have been a problem over his profession reminiscent of lacking greater than a month this previous season with a damaged ankle. But this is able to be a low-risk transfer, given the Blackhawks aren’t near rivalry. Additionally, apart from Alec Regula, they don’t have many prospects who might take the full-time leap subsequent season on their proper facet.
The difficulty that would forestall somebody like Johnson from becoming a member of Chicago is much like Dumoulin and Kulikov. At 35, would he need to spend probably the previous couple of years or so of his profession on a not-so-great Blackhawks’ staff, even with (more than likely) a generational expertise in Connor Bedard? After profitable final yr’s Cup, Johnson admitted he contemplated retiring after the 2020-21 pandemic-shortened season, when he skated in simply 4 regular-season video games (from “Erik Johnson displays on Stanley Cup win after 12 years with Avalanche: ‘I need to get this performed in Colorado,’” The Gazette, 06/28/22).
That doesn’t imply the Blackhawks shouldn’t take into account the thought. Going from a contending Colorado membership to a rebuilding Chicago staff might not sound interesting, however he’d be an excellent locker-room presence if he was , very like Jack Johnson this previous season. Realizing he’d signal a one- or maybe two-year deal at greatest, the Blackhawks may all the time overpay if essential.
The Blackhawks don’t essentially must improve their protection; in actual fact, basic supervisor (GM) Kyle Davidson lately stated a lot of their cap area will doubtless go towards forwards. However they need to not less than do their due diligence and in the event that they wished to signal one other veteran to hitch Murphy and Jones, these three gamers are affordable targets. Whereas neither of them could be the flashiest, they’d all convey depth and would bridge the hole with the staff’s prospects.