Jan Hejda, formerly of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Colorado Avalanche, has agreed to a professional tryout (PTO) contract with the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
For those of you who don’t know, a PTO contract limits the number of games that player can appear in at 25. After that point, the player is either signed to a formal contract or released.
As you may remember, we previously discussed free agent defensemen that the ‘Hawks might target, and Hejda was one of them. While he won’t nearly be playing the top-pair minutes he’s taken on in recent seasons, he should be a solid bottom pair defenseman who can be the rock next to Trevor van Riemsdyk or David Rundblad. He could essentially be the new, older Nick Leddy at the No. 5 spot with the sixth defenseman being whichever face coach Joel Quennville hits on his dart board.
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Born in the then-united country of Czechoslovakia, Hejda is a native of the Czech Republic, and was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in 2003. He has been a staple on the Czech National Team since then, which included a gold medal at the 2005 IIHF World Championship. Hejda began his career playing in the Czech Extraliga in 1997 and spent seven seasons there before playing in the Russian Superleague (This was the precursor to the KHL). After spending three seasons in the RSL, Hejda was finally given his chance in the NHL after being traded to the Edmonton Oilers.
Hejda spent his first season splitting time between the NHL and AHL before signing a contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the next offseason. Hejda began to shine in his new role in Columbus and was subsequently awarded a three-year contract at the end of the season.
Hejda then jumped ship to the Colorado Avalanche, with whom he had spent the four years. Due to the team’s depleted blue line in 2014, he actually played on the team’s top pairing most of the season, with which he proved that not only is he still a solid defenseman, but also that he still has the stamina to play 21 minutes a game.
This PTO contract does tell us a few things. Hejda was listening to Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith at the rally when they both proclaimed that they wanted a fourth Stanley Cup, which is why he came to the ‘Hawks. However, the PTO may be a sign that the Blackhawks do not have the ability to meet his terms at this time. While he may want to play for the ‘Hawks, they still only have the cap room to pay barely minimum wage in the NHL.
We will just have to wait and see how this plays out for Hejda and the ‘Hawks.
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