The Chicago Blackhawks have a blue line in flux, but defenseman David Rundblad's spot on the roster appears safe for now. While the Hawks will need to make moves when Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival are ready to return from LTIR soon, coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday that Rundblad likely would be staying put as a result of his waiver status.
The Blackhawks signed Rundblad to a two-year, one-way contract over the summer that means the 25-year-old can only be reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs if he clears waivers. Rundblad originally signed his entry-level contract with St. Louis in 2010 and is no longer waiver exempt now that five years have passed.
Two other young defensemen on the roster, Viktor Svedberg and Erik Gustafsson, have two-way deals and are allowed to be moved between Chicago and Rockford without the risk of another team claiming them. Both Svedberg and Gustafsson are still waiver-exempt.
So it sounds like Rundblad, who hasn't played well this season, will be sticking in Chicago once the veterans are ready to return to the lineup. The team would rather keep him for the time being and send down the other players than risk letting Rundblad get claimed simply because other young players looked better over the past few weeks.
That's also kind of the problem, because the Hawks can't afford to lose much ground in the Central Division and need all the help they can get. Gustafsson and Svedberg have generally performed better in Chicago than Rundblad so far this season, but their contracts make it much easier to move them down without effectively making them available to every other team.
Rundblad, to his credit, recognizes that he hasn't exactly earned his playing time:
David Rundblad frustrated, but, "I haven’t played good enough when I’ve been playing. It’s kind of my fault, too, that it’s come to this."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) November 12, 2015
The Hawks could always reassign Rundblad, let him hit waivers and see what happens. At a certain point, it might come to that if the team decides definitively that guys like Gustafsson and Svedberg are superior options. For now, it seems likely the team (once healthy) will roll with Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor Daley and Trevor van Riemsdyk as the top five, with Rozsival and Rundblad rotating like we saw at times last season.