Stan Bowman made a few eyebrows raise when he went out and acquired defenseman David Rundblad from the Arizona Coyotes last season, giving up a second-round pick in order to bring him to the Chicago Blackhawks. In limited time, it was a move that did not prove to be too fruitful for the Blackhawks, but it was especially disappointing for Rundblad, who has become something of a journeyman in his young NHL career.
Originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues, Rundblad made his way to the Ottawa Senators before he was traded to the Coyotes in the deal that sent Kyle Turris to Ottawa. In hindsight, Phoenix ended up fleeced in the deal. Nonetheless, the defense-heavy Coyotes sent Rundblad to Chicago, as they did not have room for him to break into the league. Not that the Blackhawks necessarily did, either.
Of his 55 games at the NHL level, five came with the Blackhawks last season. Even in those appearances, he didn't exactly log a ton of ice time, as he averaged just 8:20 of time. He finished without a point, a minus-1 rating, four hits, and three blocked shots. His possession numbers in such a short time frame really aren't even worth investigating too deeply.
When Bowman pulled the trigger on the deal, though, one has to imagine that he had the future in mind. It's the only way it adds up. With the Hawks pushed up against the salary cap, at least one player on the current roster needs to be moved, and all signs point to it being a defenseman. Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy immediately come to mind in such a discussion, based off of their salaries, impending free agent status, and the decent stable of youth awaiting a shot at a blue line job.
First in line for any job on the blue line would appear to be Rundblad. It remains to be seen what Joel Quenneville actually thinks of him, but there is an impressive skill set to be seen here. He has decent size, at 6'2, and is a superb puck mover. He certainly brings that offensive skill from the back end, with a big shot in addition to his ability to handle the puck, and would likely be an asset on the power play for the Hawks, if given the right type of opportunity.
It's that opportunity that will be the real question. One would imagine that he'd get the first crack at a spot in the lineup if either of Leddy or Oduya is traded. He could provide the offensive touch to contrast Niklas Hjalmarsson on the second pairing, or replace Leddy's puck carrying ability next to Michal Rozsival on the third. Or we could see him grab some starts in place of the aging Rozsival on that third pairing. It depends heavily on what the Hawks do in regard to their cap situation, as well as (obviously) training camp/preseason.
Rundblad may have his work cut out for him, with at least five defensemen already in place if a trade were to take place, as well as prospects like Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck, and Stephen Johns all knocking on the door of the Blackhawks' defensive corps. He could be looking at his first real chance of grabbing a regular gig, though, and it would be a long-awaited scenario for a guy who has toiled so endlessly in the minor leagues with multiple organizations. The Blackhawks likely traded for him with the knowledge of a future spot opening up, and the onus is going to be on Rundblad to take advantage of it.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.