The frenzied first day of NHL free agency has arrived, and the Blackhawks have added a big-bodied forward to their roster.
Amidst a flurry of other moves, the Blackhawks have signed free agent left winger Jujhar Khaira to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $975,000. The 26-year-old had entered the open market for the first time after coming off of a two-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers, with whom he has spent his entire career so far.
While Khaira is not a significant offensive talent, there is a big reason that general manager Stan Bowman went out and grabbed him: physicality. At 6’4 and 212 pounds, he is an imposing presence on the ice, and has no problem throwing his weight around.
Through his six-year NHL career, Khaira has registered a whopping 587 hits, and any team playing against the Oilers had to be wary of him when trying to break out on the rush. He is also no stranger to dropping the gloves, and has racked up numerous majors for fighting. This has helped him gather up 185 total penalty minutes.
While this might be a surprising move to some given the amount of money the ‘Hawks have spent between today and yesterday, it is a low-risk move at a cheap price. The bigger issue, however, is that the left-wing is getting clogged with players. The top six in general is starting to get top-heavy, especially with the acquisition of additional forwards like Tyler Johnson.
However, this could also simply mean that Stan Bowman is getting prepared to give other guys more time to develop with the Rockford Icehogs, such as someone like MacKenzie Entwistle. I think it’s more likely, though, that we’ll see the shedding of a few more contracts in the coming days.
It gets even more likely for contracts to be moved when you realize the team needs to facilitate necessary cap space. With this afternoon’s signing of defenseman Jake McCabe to a $4 million deal and the Seth Jones extension becoming official, the ‘Hawks have now gone over the cap ceiling, at least for the time being.
Obviously, bringing in a guy like Jujhar Khaira is not that consequential in terms of money. If anything, it simply puts more pressure on the team to part ways with some other forwards, something that was probably going to happen anyway.
The Blackhawks have made it clear from this year’s NHL draft that they are looking towards physicality as being the main building block for their future. A player like Khaira is another big body to pencil into the lineup each night.