On Monday the Chicago Blackhawks decided to waive defenseman David Rundblad.
Despite Chicago sending a 2nd round draft pick to Arizona to acquire him, and signing him to a two-year contract extension, Joel Quenneville never seems to have warmed to him. He’s spent the vast majority of the season wearing a suit in the press box.
Rundblad has managed to post positive relative possession numbers while in Chicago and in his last partial season with the Coyotes. Pegged by scouts as an offensive-minded defenseman, last season — his 24-year-old season — was the first time he really got his offense going, posting three goals and 11 assists in 49 games. That was also the most games he’s played in a season.
With promise shown last year, enough that he earned a two-year $1.05 million contract from Chicago, there are at least a few teams that could benefit from claiming the 25-year-old defenseman off waivers.
1. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets shouldn’t even be looking at what the named is before “comma” “defenseman” on waivers. They need to try anything that they can right now. They’ve been nothing but terrible and Aaron Portzline reported Monday that Jarmo Kekalainen says he’s not near a deal with anyone to shake things up in the dressing room.
New blood and acquiring a defenseman who has consistently been posting positive relative possession numbers can’t hurt. It’s hard to imagine that he’d make the blue line worse. His underlying numbers indicate he could help Columbus and just getting someone new in the room might not hurt.
Rundblad’s ability to drive play could be a welcome shift from what’s happening on the Columbus blue line right now. Columbus would have to do some cap juggling, but with Rundblad coming in at $1.05 million and with a RFA status, he could make a lot of sense.
The only problem here for the Blue Jackets is that acquiring Rundblad could limit what they’re able to do in a Ryan Johansen trade. Rundblad would be their 50th contract.
2. Edmonton Oilers
Between injuries and overpaid veterans, the Oilers blue line is a mess. Rundblad’s offensive ability and possession play could be a boon for the Oilers. His age and RFA status could be a decent fill-in for Edmonton’s young team as they continue to want to see the fruit of this rebuild.
He fits nicely in the middle of their defensive group that features players who are maybe too young to be particularly effective right now — Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart — or are on the backside of their career and not helping drive play particularly well — Andrew Ference, Andrej Sekera. Also add in that the team has clearly not been happy with the play of Mark Fayne or Nikita Nikitin and that they recalled Brad Hunt in an effort to kickstart their dormant power play, and Rundblad is starting to make a little sense.
With two years on his deal, he could help them bridge the gap through next season. They may need a fresh face next season if nothing changes. They aren’t likely to re-sign Nikitin and a buyout of Ference could be on the horizon.
3. Ottawa Senators
For the Senators, they’d be taking a bit of a chance on Rundblad, since there’s a little more defensive depth here and they aren’t as desperate for an offensive-minded defenseman, since they probably have the NHL’s best in that category already on the roster.
But there’s not much depth in that department either. Erik Karlsson leads the team in points with 40 in 33 games. The next most points among defenseman is Cody Ceci with eight, then Marc Methot with five and Chris Wideman with four.
If Rundblad can hold his own in a depth spot with Chicago, he should be able to in Ottawa as well, particularly with Patrick Wiercioch not creating the kind of offense that he created last season and offensive struggles all over their blue line outside of Karlsson.
The team is currently grossly overpaying Jared Cowen and giving ice time to Cowen, Mark Borowiecki and Ceci, all of whom are posting a score-adjusted CF%Rel south of -4.99% this season. Bringing in Rundblad makes a lot of sense and could give them a positive possession defenseman who is on the young-ish side and could be around for at least three years pretty easily. He could also become a second defensive option on the power play for the team. They’re generally running Karlsson on both units as the only defenseman, occasionally giving some minutes to Wideman or Wiercioch.
There’s still the question of whether they’d bring him back. He had a short stint there in the 2011-12 season.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.