Quenneville, Blackhawks Wrong to Carry Eight Defensemen

The team has precious little cap space and only 12 healthy forwards with Hossa out

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman on Saturday addressed the media and discussed various areas of his club before the team's Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.

These included whether or not the team would make trades (he called Kris Versteeg the team’s "big move") and whether it was a good idea for the team to carry eight defensemen.

"Having eight defensemen all year made a challenge for the coaches to try to get enough ice time for the guys," he said in the press conference.

On Monday afternoon though, the Blackhawks took a chance and traded a second round draft pick to the Phoenix Coyotes. In exchange, they got defensemen David Rundblad, who was assigned to the Hawks’ roster, and Mathieu Brisbois, who was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs.

The move left the Hawks with eight defensemen and 13 forwards on their active roster (although Marian Hossa is out for the next few weeks with an upper body injury), and even though there was some speculation that the move could be a precursor to moving another blue liner out of town, head coach Joel Quenneville dismissed that talk after the game:

While it would make sense for the Hawks to add another defensemen if they were planning on trading a guy like Nick Leddy or Johnny Oduya, the fact is that they don’t necessarily have to do so.

According to the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Hawks can not only keep as many players on their roster as they want once the NHL’s trade deadline passes on Wednesday, but they can also recall and send down as many players as they want, a change from the last CBA that limited teams to just four recalls after the deadline.

Even still, it’s tough to make of the Hawks’ decision to carry Rundblad on the roster. He didn’t get a lot of playing time in Phoenix, and with the season nearing its conclusion, one would think that Michal Rozsival will start to get more consistent playing time along Leddy like he did last season.

The move also is an interesting one because of where the team currently sits with Hossa out of the lineup for the next few weeks. Only carrying 12 healthy forwards and having eight defensemen is a mistake that the Hawks have made already this season, and trying to plug in Sheldon Brookbank at a forward slot was, in a word, disastrous.

The Blackhawks also won’t have the option of calling up another player despite the roster limit being lifted, as they only have $52,489 in available cap space at the moment, according to Capgeek. That means guys like Jeremy Morin and Pierre Marc Bouchard will be unavailable for call-up until the playoffs unless the Hawks decide to send Rundblad down to the minors (which they can easily do since he isn’t subjected to waivers, unlike Mike Kostka and Ryan Stanton).

Carrying eight defensemen and handcuffing themselves with only 12 healthy forwards is a bad idea for the Blackhawks, and it’s an ill-advised move from a team that has already been down this road before this season. If Regin or Michal Handzus needs a day off, Quenneville either has to suck it up and run them out there for just a few minutes while double-shifting a guy like Patrick Kane or Brandon Saad, or he has to put a guy like Brookbank in, which is simply an ineffective use of resources.

If Quenneville and Bowman really want to give themselves some flexibility as the deadline passes, they will ship Rundblad down to the minors, where he can help the IceHogs, and recall a guy like Bouchard or Morin to help out the offensive corps.

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