3 remaining free agent defenders to target

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The Chicago Blackhawks have had a very busy summer and General Manager (GM) Kyle Davidson officially kicked off the rebuild with several moves. However, I would say he should consider signing another defenseman before the season, and those three remaining free agents stand out above the rest. Here is an overview of each.

PK Subban

The Blackhawks have a decent amount of headroom to work with, so hopefully they’re ready to make one last notable move before the 2022-23 season begins. The right side defense could use a boost, and maybe that could be enough for Davidson to send veteran defender PK Subban an offer.

PK Subban, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Subban would be a great addition to the defensive group. Although the Blackhawks are rebuilding, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add more experience to their roster to help develop young players. They have enough space to give Subban a little extra, which could be enough to lure the 33-year-old to play in Chicago. The defense is weak enough that he can play the first four minutes and receive time on their first unit on the power play.

Subban’s days as an elite defender are over, but he can still provide a respectable offense from the point. Last season with the New Jersey Devils, he scored five goals and had 22 points. The Blackhawks would benefit from adding that type of production to their blue line, and he could have the potential to produce even more frequently in a bigger role.

Finally, if Subban signed a one-year contract and had a strong season, he would be a great candidate for deadline date hire, and a good trade return for the veteran would also help spur the rebuilding of the organization.

Denis Cholowski

There are only a few young defensemen left on the free agent market. However, 2016 first-round pick Dennis Cholowski stands out. The 24-year-old struggled to cement himself in a full-time NHL role, and the Seattle Kraken didn’t send him a qualifying offer because of it. Yet he is still young and has the potential to change that. Perhaps joining a rebuilding club like the Blackhawks could provide him with the best chance to do so.

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Cholowski spent last season between the Washington Capitals and Kraken. In 11 games, he registered three assists. He also appeared in 31 American Hockey League (AHL) games with the Charlotte Checkers, where he scored three goals and 15 assists. The Langley native has shown signs of becoming a strong attacking defender, which could be enough for Davidson to at least consider signing him.

The Blackhawks are in an ideal position to take a chance on a former top prospect like Cholowski. Sometimes defenders need more time to develop, and this could be the season he finally takes the next step. At worst, he would be a decent depth option for the Blackhawks when injuries inevitably arise.

Calvin de Haan

The Blackhawks left players like Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik and Kirby Dach this offseason. Another player on last season’s team, free agent Calvin de Haan, could also be made in Chicago. Still, I think it would be a good idea for Davidson to bring the veteran defenseman back on a one-year minimum contract in the league.

Calvin de Haan, Chicago Blackhawks
Calvin de Haan, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

We’ll likely see the Blackhawks face a number of their prospects and young players this season, so having de Haan as a mentor wouldn’t be bad at all. Also, given the defensive depth of the team, it’s clear that he would still be a good fit for their bottom pair.

At this point in his career, de Haan is not known for his one-off production. In 69 games with Chicago last season, he had four goals and four assists. Although not too impressive at first sight, he is best known for his defensive stability. Having another defensive back in the mix would be wise for the Blackhawks.

Still, we’ll have to wait and see if the Blackhawks decide to press any of these free agents. Of the bunch, Subban would be the biggest splash, but Cholowski is also a potential low-risk, high-reward option. As for de Haan, bringing back a familiar face who has plenty of NHL experience would be great. Hopefully Davidson can sign one before the start of the 2022-23 campaign.


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