The Chicago Blackhawks are going to be down another defenseman for the start of the season.
As training camp opened Friday, the Blackhawks announced defenseman Connor Murphy will be out two months with a back injury.
Fellow defensemen Brent Seabrook is expected to miss one week with an abdominal injury and Gustav Forsling remains sidelined as he recovers from surgery to his right wrist. In July, the Hawks said Forsling would miss about three months of action.
Murphy’s recovery timetable means he’ll miss at least 19-regular season games and could return as soon as the team’s Nov. 14 home game against the St. Louis Blues. Seabrook’s projected return of a week is Chicago’s third preseason game in Ottawa, but it’s more likely he’ll be back on the ice for the team’s Sept. 25 home contest against Detroit.
Murphy, 25, came to Chicago as part of the Niklas Hjalmarsson trade during the 2017 offseason. He appeared in 76 games for Chicago, scoring twice with 12 assists. He only averaged 16:22 of ice time per game, the second-lowest total among Chicago’s blue-liners.
The injury strikes a major blow to an already-thin defensive corps, with Murphy serving as one of the players that the team hoped would emerge as a reliable, top-four blueliner.
But his injury, along with the offseason surgery for Forsling, opens the door for other young defensemen to make the team out of camp, including 2017 first-round pick Henri Jokiharju. The 19-year-old Jokiharju signed a three-year entry-level contract after posting career highs in points (71), goals (12) and assists (69) in 63 games with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. If he plays less than 10 NHL games during next season, his contract would slide a season and begin in the 2019-20 season.