Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny wants to stay in the NHL next season and has already began negotiations on a new deal before he hits restricted free agency, according to The Athletic’s Scott Powers.
There was some possibility that Kempny might not want to stay in the NHL after an up and down season with the Blackhawks, but he shot that idea down in an interview with Powers. Not only did Kempny say that he’s enjoyed his time with the Blackhawks, he also said he’s not interested in returning to the KHL.
That’s good news for the Blackhawks, who will retain Kempny’s rights as an RFA this summer. They’ll presumably try to re-sign him to an affordable deal that gives him a slight raise on his current $700,000 base salary while still making him one of the cheaper defensemen on the roster.
One area of interest for Kempny as he looks to sign a new contract is playing time. He appeared 50 times for the Blackhawks in the regular season, but saw his role dwindle in the second half after the acquisition of Johnny Oduya. The defense could look much different next year with Oduya and Brian Campbell’s contracts expiring, plus the possibility of Trevor van Riemsdyk getting picked by Vegas in the expansion draft.
While Gustav Forsling presumably will be one of the top candidates to fill a spot, Kempny should also be in the mix after a solid debut season. He didn’t gain the complete confidence of Joel Quenneville with the occasional unforced error, but he also finished with a 56.3 percent 5-on-5 Corsi. That’s 6.9 percent better than when he’s off the ice, and gives an idea of how he can be useful in driving possession. That kind of talent is a nice luxury to have from a depth player.
So rather than return to the KHL, where Kempny was one of the top defensemen in the league, he’ll look to keep carving out his place in the NHL. Assuming he figures things out with the Blackhawks, expect him to be one of the key competitors for a spot in the top six to open next season.