The Chicago Blackhawks continued to bolster their roster depth on Wednesday afternoon when they signed free agent forward Brad Winchester to a one-year contract.
Winchester, 32, has played for five different NHL teams in his career, including his most productive years with the St. Louis Blues, but spent all of last season with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL.
In 37 games, he had nine goals and 18 assists to go along with 66 penalty minutes.
In his last action in the NHL, he played the 2011-12 season with the San Jose Sharks, scoring six goals and dishing out four assists in 67 games. He also had 88 penalty minutes in that campaign.
Obviously, Winchester is not going to be guaranteed a spot on the Blackhawks’ roster coming out of training camp. At 6’5” and 230 pounds, his size is going to tempt head coach Joel Quenneville, who has a track record of running out bigger guys in an effort to muscle up against physically imposing teams.
While his size will be an advantage, the philosophy of the team isn’t strictly a physical one anyway. Last year Michael Frolik spent a large amount of time as a fourth line winger, and he is far from a beast when it comes to throwing his weight around. That multi-tiered strategy means that Winchester is going to have to fight for his roster spot with guys like Ben Smith and Brandon Bollig, as well as indirectly with Jeremy Morin and Jimmy Hayes.
If one were to ask where the most likely landing spot for Winchester will be once the season starts, it would be in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs. It’s hard to see a scenario where Winchester is any more than an injury fill-in at this point in his career, and it would be a bit of a shocker if he were to beat out those younger guys for a roster spot on the Blackhawks in October.
Even still, it’s these kinds of moves that GM Stan Bowman is going to need to make as he tries to keep the cupboard stocked with talent that’s ready to come to Chicago when needed during what will be a grueling 82-game season.