Rumors

Rumor Roundup: Keith injury puts pressure on Blackhawks to find blueline help

Lyle Richardson
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Duncan Keith (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

Rumors

Rumor Roundup: Keith injury puts pressure on Blackhawks to find blueline help

Lyle Richardson
By:

Earlier this month, it was reported GM Stan Bowman was in the market for a third-pairing defenseman and with Duncan Keith on the shelf, the search for defensive depth could take on more urgency.

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith underwent knee surgery earlier this week and is expected to be sidelined four-to-six weeks. Keith, 31, is the anchor of the Blackhawks blueline and his absence will be keenly felt.

Earlier this month, it was reported GM Stan Bowman was in the market for a third-pairing defenseman. With Keith on the shelf, the search for defensive depth could take on more urgency.

Bowman has limited cap space, though the Chicago Sun-Times' Brian Sandalow suggests Keith ($5.54 million salary-cap hit) could be placed on long-term injured reserve after missing 10 games and 24 days. That move would provide the 'Hawks with much-needed short-term cap relief to add a blueliner.

Chris Hines of the Chicago Tribune notes sidelined blueliner Michal Rozsival (fractured ankle) is eligible to return to the lineup in late-October or early-November. He also speculated they could promote a prospect or perhaps sign an unrestricted free agent. For now, inexperienced youngsters Trevor van Riemsdyk and Viktor Svedberg could see more playing time.

Prior to the Columbus Blue Jackets replacing head coach Todd Richards with John Tortorella, GM Jarmo Kekalainen was busy checking out the NHL trade market in hopes of finding help for his struggling club. Unfortunately, his fellow GMs weren't in a giving mood.

The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline reports Kekalainen's spoken with a number of counterparts seeking a defenseman or two to bolster his blueline. What's available, however, either doesn't suit the Jackets' needs or come with expensive price tags. Portzline mused it could cost the Jackets any number of combinations involving players, prospects or draft picks.

TSN's Bob McKenzie claims Kekalainen seeks a top-two defenseman but expressed skepticism over landing such a blueliner this early in the season. He states the Jackets GM is unwilling to part with promising youngsters like Alexander Wennberg and Zach Werenski.

Winger Kerby Rychel was recently rumored to be available. Portzline suggested the 21-year-old was showcased in an Oct. 17 game against the Chicago Blackhawks. If so, Rychel's performance (no points, one hit and five PIM in just over nine minutes of ice time) failed to spark interest.

The inability to find sufficient help via trades likely contributed to the coaching change. Kekalainen could continue shopping, but he's likely to wait and see if Tortorella can pull the lineup out of its current tailspin.

With the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets in the market for defensemen, perhaps they'll give the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning a call. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson could be available, while the Lightning might be willing to part with Braydon Coburn or Matt Carle.

Gunnarsson, who turns 29 in November, is in the final year of his contract with a $3.125-million cap hit, while the 30-year-old Coburn carries a $4.5-million cap hit. Both are eligible for UFA status in July. Carle, 31, has two more seasons left on his contract at a cap hit of $5.5 million. He and Coburn both carry modified no-trade clauses.

It's unlikely the Lightning move Coburn or Carle at this stage, preferring to keep their roster intact for another run at the Stanley Cup final. Gunnarsson carries a more affordable cap hit and lacks a no-trade clause, making him a more likely trade option. However, with Kevin Shattenkirk currently sidelined, Gunnarsson probably won't be dealt anytime soon.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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Rumor Roundup: Keith injury puts pressure on Blackhawks to find blueline help