With the regular season only two days away, the Chicago Blackhawks roster is set for opening day, thanks to a few roster moves over the last few days — including a surprising signing.
Blackhawks officially announced Monday they signed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year deal worth $800k:
The Blackhawks apparently reached out to Gustafsson about signing with the team on Friday, which makes sense in terms of timing: that’s the day it was announced Caleb Jones would be out for approximately six weeks. While there’s been a lot of debate about bringing back the controversial defender, it is a low-risk move to add veteran depth in light of the injuries to both Caleb Jones and Wyatt Kalynuk.
Coach Jeremy Colliton also stated that nothing has been promised to Gustafsson, so he’ll have to earn his playing time like anyone else:
Colliton on Gustafsson:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 11, 2021
"Nothing’s been promised as far as what exactly his role is going to be, but we do think he can help... We had a need with a couple guys going down and we know he can play."
TBD if he'll play Wednesday. It'll definitely be a smaller role than before.
And at least Gustafsson is self-aware:
I asked Gustafsson what went so well for him in 2018-19 that he can hope to rekindle:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 11, 2021
"Play with Kaner?"
The Blackhawks assigned several players to the Rockford IceHogs on both Sunday and Monday in preparation of finalizing their opening day roster:
- Forwards: MacKenzie Entwistle, Philipp Kurashev, Alex Nylander, Mike Hardman, Reese Johnson
- Defenseman: Nicolas Beaudin, Jakub Galvas
- Goaltenders: Subban and Colin Delia
All of the defenders and most of the forwards were expected roster moves, especially after it was discovered that Nylander was exempt from waivers after all.
Entwistle and Kurashev are likely just paper transactions for opening day cap maneuverability. One or both could be back up quickly, though we’ll have to wait to see for sure.
Malcolm Subban and Colin Delia were expected to be assigned to the AHL if they cleared waivers, which they did on Monday. While it’s good that the Blackhawks did not lose either for nothing and retain their goaltending depth, it does create a logjam in Rockford with both Arvid Söderblom and Cale Morris already with the IceHogs.
After one final move of placing C. Jones on offseason LTIR, the Blackhawks are now officially cap complainant for the start of the season:
Chicago #Blackhawks begin the season utilizing off-season LTIR to remain compliant— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) October 11, 2021
Cap Hit: $82,160,032
LTIR: C. Jones ($850,000)
Cap Space: $0*
Roster size: 20 (12F - 6D - 2G)
*The club can still place Shaw's $3.9M on in-season LTI.https://t.co/xoSlDEahUi
Practice on Monday seemed to be a low-key event, focusing on individual drills more than anything else. When they did practice with lines and pairings, they looked similar to those in the last preseason game with a few tweaks.
Dylan Strome was alternating with Kurashev as second-line right wing and Brandon Hagel slotted back in on the third line. Although not listed below, Adam Gaudette was rotating with Entwistle on the fourth line.
Blackhawks lines in practice:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 11, 2021
Finally, in Blackhawks adjacent news, Patrick Kane and Seth Jones were announced last Thursday as two of the first three players to be officially named to Team USA’s roster for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The Blackhawks practice again on Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. in Chicago at Fifth Third Arena.