NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Chicago Blackhawks

Runds For The Exit

This is what passes as news these days in hockey. A player who didn’t want to play for a team that didn’t want him was able to reach an accord with said team so he doesn’t have to. David Rundblad and the Hawks mutually terminated his contract and now he’s free to pursue opportunities elsewhere. As a side bonus, the Hawks get rid of all of his upcoming cap hit, so they don’t have to worry about buying him out or burying him in Rockford when they have a few young d-men they’d probably like to get as much time as possible (hi there, Gustav and Ville).

When reviewing Stan Bowman’s record as GM, you could make a case that Rundblad was possibly his worst move. At a trade deadline when the Hawks were simply screaming for anyone to play center that was not Michal Handzus or Andrew Shaw, Bowman’s only move was to give up a 2nd round pick, a pretty valuable asset as we’ve come to see, for a player that could only manage just north of 60 games over two and a quarter seasons for the Hawks. That deadline whiff clearly scarred Bowman, who has swung for the fences in the subsequent two trade deadlines, with varying success.

We often talk of the seeming disconnection between the coach and the GM, with players not being used in a way one would think the GM intended. But this one was clearly one that Q got right, because from the word go he didn’t have much use for Rundblad. Runds The Jewels’ appeal was clear. He did have a big shot, which he got through pretty consistently, and he did make a nice first pass out of the zone. The problem was he needed about five minutes of time to do either of these things, and he doesn’t skate nearly well enough to open up that time for himself. He also was simply lost in his own zone, either getting physically overpowered or having all the awareness of a sloth. It’s hard to believe Bowman missed so badly on this, but then again we still await a d-man he drafted to actually become an effective NHL-er (Stephen Johns looking the most likely).

The Hawks now sit with somewhere around $2 million in space, depending on which entry level deals actually make the roster and which don’t (whether it’s Schmaltz and Motte and Hartman who have more expensive deals ahead of Rasmussen, Hinostroza, and Mashinter and the like). There are still some intriguing names sitting in the waiting room, and some of them might come in pretty cheap just because they want a job. Patrik Elias is probably finished, Radim Vrbata would only be entertaining because Beavis and Butthead in the booth would probably have a brain bubble watching him. I’m contractually obligated to point out Sam Gagner for Fifth Feather’s benefit. Jiri Hudler is the one name that fits, but he’s probably not taking less than two mildo, at least not until September. Alex Tanguay has played for Q before. If you could get some of these guys to take 1.0-1.5 million for a one-year, prove it deal that isn’t the worst idea in the world.

I know some are dreaming of Jimmy Vesey, but these ballyhooed college free agents should be taking with a grain or two of salt. Vesey didn’t start dominating the NCAA until his junior year when he was older than pretty much most of his competition, and the ECAC isn’t the most powerful conference out there. Vesey might be a contributor, he might not be, but considering where the Hawks are now they’d be better off sniffing out if they can get a proven NHL-er for cheap. Considering how the other college free agent signings have gone for the Hawks, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m on the hesitant side there.

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