Analysis

Blackhawks’ Handling of International UDFAs May Haunt Them

By Roland Hacker
Alex DeBrincat #12, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Alex DeBrincat #12, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /
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There’s no secret that Blackhawks’ General Manager, Stan Bowman, likes signing international undrafted free agents. The strategy has worked, but the handling of these players could have been better.

Bowman and the Blackhawks won the Artemi Panarin sweepstakes back in 2015. In his first season, Panarin put up 77 points in 80 games and went on to win the Calder Trophy that season. He has been a premier offensive talent in the league ever since.

Panarin signing with the Blackhawks changed the landscape of international free agents in the NHL. Since he came to the NHL, every team has tried to find the next Panarin — the next undrafted superstar.

Since that major signing, Chicago has also signed Michal Kempny, Jan Rutta, David Kampf and Dominik Kahun, as international undrafted free agents playing in professional leagues in Europe. They all went on to play in the NHL. Recently, Bowman has signed Anton Wedin as well, but he has yet to play in the NHL so we’ll avoid him for now.

Where Are They Now?

Panarin ended up getting traded to reacquire Brandon Saad.

Kempny was traded to the Washington Capitals, where he played top pairing minutes alongside John Carlson during the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run.

Rutta was traded during this past season for former first-round pick, Slater Koekkoek.

As of this past Saturday, Kahun was traded along with a draft pick for Olli Maatta, so only Kampf remains of those free agents; Bowman has traded four of the five away which isn’t the best look, as far as future recruiting goes.

At first glance, that seems great. Bowman has generated free assets and traded them away for what he felt the organization needs at the time.

On the flip side though, if a majority of the desired undrafted free agents that choose to sign with Chicago and end up getting traded, eventually they’ll stop signing with Chicago.

This is a trend that needs to be monitored carefully in the future if the Blackhawks want to continue to be a top choice for international free agents.

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