Chicago Blackhawks defensemen Brandon Manning and Jan Rutta have both come up in trade discussions. Though nothing has been finalized, here’s what to make of this most recent news.
Myself, along with many Blackhawks fans, have been rooting for something like this to surface for a long time. At 28 years old, Manning signed a two-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks for $2.25 million annually. Manning was coming off the best season of his career to date which seems to justify Stan Bowman’s signing, however two years at $2+ mil was a little bit of a head scratcher.
Here’s Scott Powers for a quick scouting report on Manning’s play in Chicago this season:
"“Manning has played in 24-of-30 games and has a 47.67 Corsi percentage and minus-15 goal differential in 5-on-5 play. Five of his best Corsi games have come in the last 10 games while playing more of a third-pairing role alongside Brent Seabrook. Manning has one goal and two assists and has averaged 15:39 of ice time.”"
A minus -15 and sub-50 Corsi is certainly less than desirable for someone who was supposed to help fix the Chicago Blackhawks defensive woes.
On the other hand, Rutta was never going to be someone who would greatly impact this team. It’s not necessarily a knock on him, but a third pairing defensemen was all the Blackhawks really expected out of him.
His numbers are better Manning’s, though not by much. For reference, Powers once again breaks it down:
"“Rutta has played in 22-of-30 games and has a 49.74 Corsi percentage and plus-2 goal differential in 5-on-5 play. He has two goals and four assists and has averaged 16:19 of ice time.”"
At the end of the day, both Rutta and Manning are below average defensemen on a below average team. As the season goes on, Bowman is quickly identifying that he doesn’t need guys like this taking minutes away from other defensemen who could be developing their game instead.
Connor Murphy and Rutta are both right-handed defensemen and upon Murphy’s return the ‘Hawks will find themselves with an even heavier surplus of righties manning the blue line. Moving these players sooner rather than later certainly makes sense as it frees up space for Murphy and, perhaps more importantly, gives them more roster/cap freedom to make another move at some point down the road.
That said, finding a suitor may be harder than we think. Here’s what Scott Powers’ source had to say on the details of this potential move.
"“I don’t know if they’ll find suitors,” said the source. “It all depends. Manning is a 6/7 defenseman guy. If you want to get your depth guy now, then maybe. The problem is he has that extra year. Management doesn’t usually want that. It’s about the flexibility. The Blackhawks could eat some of his salary. As for Rutta, I don’t know. I never say never. Some people think they can turn a player around.”"
As the source said, it could be hard to find the right team to be willing to take these guys. Then again, it’s a long season. The fact that Rutta and Manning are being shopped at all is a positive sign for me.
Sure, a move might not be made this week, but should a contender run into issues with defensive depth these guys immediately become a sought after commodity. Ideally, I’d like to see both of them on their way out before the trade deadline is up.
Though the return may be small, it doesn’t sound like the Blackhawks are very picky right now. Whether or not they are open to retaining some salary remains to be seen, however Powers’ source claimed that the Chicago Blackhawks would be open to taking almost anything in return for the players.
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In addition to this being a positive for the minutes Forsling, Jokiharju and Murphy will be getting, it’s also a sign that the Chicago Blackhawks are very confident in what they have in Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell. If Stan Bowman wasn’t somewhat certain that we’d be seeing at least one of these guys next year, I’m not sure he’d be actively shopping these guys at the time.
How this all shakes out remains to be seen, but this is certainly one sign of many that says the Chicago Blackhawks will not be quiet in transactions this year.