CHICAGO -- The addition of defenseman Michal Rozsival to the Chicago Blackhawks blue-line on Tuesday only comes as a surprise in relation to timing. With all eyes focused on the final week before a lockout occurs the Hawks are still “minding the store” by picking up their second player this offseason, and it just also happens to be their second defenseman.
He better provide something more, because at a reported $2 million for the his one-year deal, he’s not just a minor, depth type of pick-up. League sources say the New York Rangers were interested, but the Hawks outbid them by a wide margin.
Rozsival will play, which makes the deal worth analyzing that much more. Though he’s not the most self-motivated individual and it remains to be seen if he can stay healthy, he’s got some talent left if he applies himself. Either way, he more than likely starts as a No. 5 defenseman who will see penalty-killing time as a good shot blocker and perhaps a few minutes on the power play if there are injuries.
He has a decent shot, and that’s not exactly a strength of Hawks defensemen.
But this move adds to a crowded blue-line which means a veteran or even a younger player will probably be on the move, either to the minors or out of town completely. Rozsival joins holdovers Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Johnny Oduya, Montador and Dylan Olsen on a team that also signed Brookbank in July. That’s nine players for six spots while, at most, two would be watching from the stands. So who goes?
The easy answer would be Olsen. He’s on a two-way contract and with the Hawks in an urgent situation to win, bringing along a young defenseman might not be a luxury they want to deal with. It’s known that Joel Quenneville likes Olsen but that might not matter. More on that in a moment.
Montador might be the odds-on favorite to be moved off the roster. He’s coming off multiple concussions and while the Hawks were desperate for a right handed defenseman last off-season -- Montador fits that description -- they went ahead and picked up two more this summer/fall. It’s their only two pick-ups.
That’s telling. It’s also telling that the Hawks would more than likely have to “eat” the rest of Montador’s four-year, $11 million contract which contains three seasons and $8.25 million left. It’s doubtful he’d be picked up off waivers so he would likely go to the minors unless a team needs to add some salary to get to the cap floor. That’s depending on what a new CBA looks like of course.
Montador knows the addition of Rozsival makes for a crowded training camp.
“It’s a good thing,” Montador said on Tuesday. “You want to have healthy competition. Maybe (roster) changes aren’t finished but at the same time it’s good for teams to have options. It just brings the best out of anyone or maybe the worst but the point is they want to put the best product on the ice to win games. I think it’s a good thing to have a healthy competition.”
Nothing is written in stone at this point. The Hawks might have a bigger trade in mind involving Niklas Hjalmarsson or another defenseman. Hjalmarsson’s name was mentioned early and often this past offseason when the Hawks were in the running (sort of) for Ryan Suter, who eventually signed with the Minnesota Wild.
Getting back to Olsen and the bigger picture, any move or strategy to be dissected needs to be viewed through the “lens of urgency.” That applies to the whole organization but mostly to the head coach. It’s been written in this blog many times even going back to the spring: this will be a different Quenneville than we’ve seen before. Actually, it may or may not be as apparent to fans and media but players better be ready. It might simply be apparent to the rest of us in the decisions he makes. Quenneville is coaching for his job and, in some degree, his respect. It took a hit last year, maybe a small one, but a hit nonetheless. And he knows it.
It’s known that Quenneville “likes” Olsen as does Marcus Kruger, but with the previous stated backdrop, do you think he’ll have the patience for young mistakes or for players to grow into their game both mentally and physically? It’s doubtful he’ll stand it from veterans, so young players who can’t hack it aren’t going to get the benefit of the doubt.
Then again, it’s less likely the youth on this team will take anything for granted. Andrew Shaw will become -- if he isn’t already -- a Quenenville favorite. He might get his head taken off but Shaw will undoubtedly bring it every night and has about half a season of experience to work with.
No one knows if and when hockey will be played but when it does expect an antsy Quenneville to react accordingly. And with currently nine “legitimate” defenders on the roster someone is sure to go. Who will Quenneville deliver the bad news to? For him, it’ll just be news.