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Chicago Blackhawks’ In-House Defenseman Options For The Future

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Mar 11, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson (52) skates against the Dallas Stars during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Blackhawks 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson (52) skates against the Dallas Stars during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Blackhawks 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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There is talk of Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk going to the Vegas Golden Knights in an expansion draft-related deal, so it’s important for the Blackhawks to explore their in-house defenseman options

The Chicago Blackhawks currently have seven NHL-level defensemen under contract for the 2017-18 season, totaling close to $20 million against the salary cap. Brent Seabrook ($6,875,000 cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5,538,462) and Niklas Hjalmarsson ($4,100,000) constitute the defensive cap hits of seven figures.

Beyond that, the Blackhawks are sitting on the newly-re-signed Michal Kempny ($900,000 cap hit), Gustav Forsling ($872,500), Trevor van Riemsdyk ($825,000) and Michal Rozsival ($650,000). Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya are free agents looking for a new contract this offseason.

But recent rumors have suggested van Riemsdyk could be part of a potential deal with the Vegas Golden Knights. It would reportedly involve his selection in the expansion draft while the Blackhawks would also move forward Marcus Kruger to free some cap space.

The Blackhawks would then have six defensemen signed for next season while still being in a tough spot with the cap. A fair assumption is that Oduya is gone once more, while Campbell could be brought back on an extremely low-cost, one-year contract.

Chicago Blackhawks

Still, the Blackhawks would clearly be looking at a concerning defensive situation next season should TVR be gone. While TVR isn’t any sort of defensive dynamo, he at least holds a couple years’ NHL experience and knowledge of Chicago’s system. It would be a hole in need of filling.

And going outside the team to fill that hole would be far more expensive that staying in-house. So let’s take a look at some in-house defensemen the Blackhawks could offer an NHL look to in 2017-18.

Erik Gustafsson

It was believed Gustafsson would at some point get another call to the NHL ranks during the 2016-17 season. After all, he spent 41 games with the Blackhawks during the 2015-16 campaign, tallying 14 assists.

But Gustafsson never got the call last season. If TVR hits the road and the Blackhawks are unable to bring back one or both of Oduya and Campbell, you have to think Gustafsson is among the first candidates who could get some rope at the NHL level.

Gustafsson is more in the mold of Forsling — an offensive-minded defenseman who’s a bit slight of size (6-foot, 176 pounds). But he still played a semi-physical game in Chicago, and it’s not like the Blackhawks had an abundance of offense from their blue line last season.

Viktor Svedberg

There was less surprise when Svedberg wasn’t seen on the main roster in 2016-17, despite spending 27 games with the Blackhawks in 2015-16. He just wasn’t as impressive as Gustafsson, potting four points while showing limited skating abilities — or tangible NHL-level abilities.

Still, the Blackhawks have invested a decent amount of time and effort into Svedberg, and the coaching staff seems to have some level of affinity for him, even though he didn’t see big-league time this season.

It wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see Svedberg get some sort of look if TVR is not on the opening night roster. But I also wouldn’t expect him to stick around long if he does. The Blackhawks don’t need to be getting slower as a defensive unit.

Ville Pokka

At this point, it’s hard to believe Pokka is going to see NHL ice as a member of the Blackhawks. I guess TVR going away would be a last-gasp effort for him, but at this point, I think the Blackhawks are more keen on boosting his value at the AHL level to try and find a future trade partner, versus possibly spoiling what value he has by playing him in the NHL.

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Luc Snuggerud

The first of a few 22-and-under options here, Snuggerud recently signed his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks. Could he be ready to quickly transition from the college game to the NHL level after just 13 AHL games?

The Blackhawks might be interested considering Snuggerud’s style of play. Hockey’s Future describes him as being in the mold of former Blackhawk Nick Leddy (they even went to the same high school). He’s an offensive defenseman, and as I mentioned above with Gustafsson, the Blackhawks are hurting for some offensive push on the back end.

He wouldn’t be asked to take major minutes, but he could get an extended look at some point in 2017-18 should he fare well in the preseason camps.

Carl Dahlstrom

The Blackhawks can’t be entirely made out of offensive defensemen though, so let’s look at someone who’s a little less in that mold. Dahlstrom is described by Hockey’s Future as “a rangy, stay-at-home defenseman.” The Blackhawks’ best option in that right now might be Kempny, and coach Joel Quenneville didn’t exactly give him the best NHL introduction this season.

Dahlstrom is a bigger guy than some of the others mentioned above, checking in at 6-4 and 223 pounds. But the difference between Dahlstrom and someone like Svedberg, an even bigger man, is that Dahlstrom is far more mobile. In that sense, he could be a unique piece for the Blackhawks.

Next: Blackhawks Talking Deal With Golden Knights

Robin Norell

Norell may be stuck behind a long line of familiar faces and fellow young guns, but he’s still worth noting since he’s entering Year 2 of his entry-level contract. Norell doesn’t offer much in the way of size (5-11, 189) or scoring (11 points in 76 games with Rockford), but he’s certainly someone the Blackhawks will look closely at during the camps, given their meager defensive prospect ranks.

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