Blackhawks Add to Crowded Blueline

It’s been a while since any NHL team has signed a free agent with the lockout looming. The collective bargaining agreement expires this Saturday and general managers have stayed quiet.

There was actual news and a signing out of Chicago on Tuesday as the Blackhawks signed defenseman Michal Rozsival to a one-year, $2 million contract. Rozsival is a solid defenseman who can eat up some minutes so Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook don’t have to play as much.

The really question is who will be the odd blueliner out when and if the season starts?

Here are the eight Blackhawks defenseman under contract for the 2012-2013:

A ninth player who could be in the mix is 2009 first round pick Dylan Olsen who had some opportunities in the second half of last season.

Keith and Seabrook are locks to be the top pairing, or if they are split up at least part of the top four.

The rest of the defensive pairings is up in the air. Nick Leddy played top four minutes last season, but struggled in his second year. It will be vital for Leddy to improve in year three. He has puck moving abilities and has a promising future along with Olsen.

Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador are overpaid for their abilities and could be trade bait if the right offer is there. Stan Bowman seems to be willing to unload one or both. A trade would likely happen when the new CBA is in place.

Johnny Oduya, Sheldon Brookbank and Rozsival were resigned or brought in as a free agency this summer. Oduya and Rozsival can possibly play top four minutes, but aren’t elite players. Brookbank is a younger version of Sean O’Donnell and will see time on the third pairing.

The Blackhawks defense might not be sorted out until after a possible lockout. Stan Bowman has assembled a solid group that will skate in front of Corey Crawford.

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