The Chicago Blackhawks and defenseman David Rundblad have officially agreed to a mutual contract termination, per General Fanager. The move removes Rundblad from Chicago's salary cap books and frees the former first-round pick to sign elsewhere, likely in Europe.
The writing was on the wall for Rundblad earlier this offseason when the Hawks placed him on buyout waivers. He cleared, and with the buyout period having already passed, a mutual contract termination seemed inevitable. Now we have word that the Hawks and Rundblad have officially parted ways.
For the Blackhawks, the move saves $100,000 in salary cap space. Rundblad had a $1.05 million cap hit for the 2016-17 season, so burying him in Rockford or loaning him to a team in Europe would've left a $100,000 cap charge on the books. Now that cap hit is removed entirely and Rundblad will not receive his $1.1 million salary for next season.
It's an unceremonious end to a Blackhawks career that never quite got off the ground. In 2014, Rundblad and Matheiu Brisebois were acquired from Arizona in exchange for a second-round pick. He bounced in and out of the lineup over the next two-plus seasons, playing a total of 63 games with the Hawks.
In that time, Rundblad showed many of the physical tools and skills that made him an exciting prospect, but occasionally looked lost defensively and struggled in Chicago's system. It's one thing to be making those mistakes when you're 22 years old, but Rundblad turns 26 in October. He's pretty close to bust status at this point, and with no team claiming him off waivers this summer, there don't seem to be many more NHL opportunities lining up for him.
It's led to some curiosity from the advanced statistics community given that Rundblad's underlying numbers are actually pretty strong. In his time with Chicago, he recorded a 56.9 percent Corsi at 5-on-5. When he was on the ice, the team's Corsi was four percent higher than when he was off it. He also recorded 18 points, so he had some success as an offensive producer. Now, there are caveats -- he was sheltered at times, doesn't always pass the eye test and the team had a 103 PDO when he was on the ice -- but less interesting players have gotten far longer looks. Part of me always thought he would figure it out.
Rundblad, a Swedish native, seems likely to return to Europe, where he spent part of last season on loan. After returning last season, he said that playing overseas helped rebuild his confidence, and maybe he's deciding that's simply where he's best off continuing his career.
Rundblad said he wanted to go to Europe because he needed to play and find his confidence. "That kind of got lost over these last years."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 25, 2016
If he takes a leap in Europe, maybe he'll get another shot at the NHL in a year or two given his tools and solid underlying statistics.