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Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Defenseman Free Agent Options

By Colin Likas
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Oct 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman

Mark Fistric

(28) during the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Anaheim won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Fistric

Last played for: Anaheim Ducks

Most recent salary: $1,200,000

Why take him on: Anaheim likely doesn’t need to re-sign Fistric, as it already has seven defensemen against the cap, including six who could start on Opening Night (using the term “could start” loosely for guys like Kevin Bieksa and Clayton Stoner). Fistric hardly played last season, logging just nine games for Anaheim. At just 29-years-old, you figure he’d relish the opportunity to start fresh and get some playing time under his belt again, and he’d certainly get that with Chicago. He’s averaged 15:04 in ice time over his career, which is arguably more than what the Blackhawks would need from him on a nightly basis, another plus.

Fistric was actually a first-round pick of the Dallas Stars in 2004, but his career hasn’t really panned out to this point. He’s a big guy at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, so he can certainly throw his body around. While he isn’t the most mobile guy in the world, he doesn’t have to be perfect. He’d likely be asked to take on third-pairing minutes and skate with either Rundblad or van Riemsdyk — or he could skate with Seabrook — and it seems like he would be able to do any of those things just fine. A below-3o-years-old depth defenseman would be a reasonable seventh blueliner for these Blackhawks.

Jan 27, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman

Anton Volchenkov

(20) waits for the puck to land during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Anton Volchenkov

Last played for: Nashville Predators

Most recent salary: $1,000,000 (previous contract bought out by New Jersey, worth $4,250,000 per year)

Why take him on: Another guy whose most recent team doesn’t need him anymore, Volchenkov could be another big-bodied option who provides straight up defensive defense for the Blackhawks. And there’s nothing wrong with that, considering he’s the seventh D-man, in theory. Volchenkov actually did see time with the Preds last season, starting 46 games before Cody Franson‘s arrival pretty much eliminated Volchenkov’s playing time.

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Again, we have another guy who has a healthy career time on ice figure at 18:13, though he was only asked for 13:11 per night with the Preds. He’s 33-years-old and checks in at 6-1, 220 pounds. So he’s essentially a slightly older version of Fistric, which could make a cheaper contract easier to come by with Volchenkov. He’s not going to wow you, but again, this is a seventh defenseman we’re talking about. If anything, he just needs to be unnoticeable in games.

Mar 23, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche defenseman

Jan Hejda

(8) skates against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Jan Hejda

Last played for: Colorado Avalanche

Most recent salary: $3,250,000

Why take him on: He’s a veteran who wants a chance at a Cup before he retires (unless he hates winning). The Blackhawks could give him that chance, but he’d need to take a salary reduction. We’ve been talking only about big guys thus far, and Hejda is the biggest of the three mentioned to this point, checking in at 6-4, 237 pounds. Unlike Fistric and Volchenkov, however, Hejda has had some offensive success in his career. The 37-year-old has recorded double-digit points in all but one of his nine NHL seasons, with career highs of six goals (2013-14) and 18 assists (2008-09).

Hejda is a guy who was asked to play top-pairing minutes with the Avs (averaging 20:58 ice time with them) though he isn’t a top-pairing guy. His role was the Blackhawks would be much more suitable for his abilities and age. He could conceivably be the No. 6 defenseman if either Rundblad or van Riemsdyk looks awful in the early going. He’ll just have to be talked down from $3,250,000, because he isn’t getting that in Chicago.

Mar 29, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Michal Rozsival (32) stretches prior to the game against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Michal Rozsival

Last played for: Chicago Blackhawks

Most recent salary: $1,750,000

Why take him on: Admit it, you either groaned or chuckled when you saw this one. Yeah, Bowman and Co. might just circle back to Rozsival as the season nears its beginning. Rozsival can obviously be had for fewer than $2 million, and he’s very openly said he wants to be back in Chicago, and that he doesn’t consider himself done playing despite his ankle betraying him in an awful way during the 2015 Western Conference semifinals.

That’s the key concern with re-signing Rozsival — can he still go, or is that ankle going to hinder an already slow player even more? As much as we harped on Rozsival last season, he actually looked good in the 2015 postseason after the opening two games of the Nashville series. We thought his departure ahead of the Western Conference finals would be beneficial to the Blackhawks, but it turned out they needed him more than ever.

He’s a guy who’s well liked in the locker room and who’s familiar with Quenneville’s system. Rozsival could be the 6/7D once again in 2015-16.

Nov 5, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman

Andrej Meszaros

(41) heads up ice with the puck as Montreal Canadiens right wing

P.A. Parenteau

(15) pursues during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Andrej Meszaros

Last played for: Buffalo Sabres

Most recent salary: $5,500,000

Why take him on: This is what you’d call a pipe dream, considering what he made last season. But Meszaros, somewhat of a journeyman after his selection in the 2004 draft’s first round, may be the odd man out in Buffalo. The Sabres have seven guys currently listed against the cap at the blue line, and though they have plenty of room to negotiate a new contract with Meszaros, maybe they’re happy with what they’ve got. And since no one else seems to be jumping at Meszaros, maybe Bowman can convince him to come over to Chicago.

Meszaros started his career with the team that drafted him, the Ottawa Senators, and posted three 35-plus-point seasons. He also earned Norris Trophy votes with Philadelphia in 2010-11, but his career has been somewhat quiet since. He’s been with three teams since the start of the 2013-14 season and just seems to be floating through his career right now. At 29-years-old, there’s probably still some good play left in his tank. And at 6-2, 223 pounds, and with 10 NHL seasons under his belt, he offers what a seventh defenseman often should. In fact, he could be far better than a seventh defenseman. It’d be all about the dollars and cents here.

Agree with any of my picks? Have a suggestion of your own for the Blackhawks’ seventh defenseman? Let us know in the comments.

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