In a roster move of minimal importance, the Chicago Blackhawks have waived defenseman Michael Kostka, as is a stipulation of his NHL contract. Already having spent time in the NHL and AHL, Kostka was offered to other teams before he can be assigned to the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. He was claimed by the Tampa Bay Lightning just minutes ago. It is the same process that cost the Blackhawks defenseman Ryan Stanton to the Vancouver Canucks earlier in the season.
Kostka was on a one-year, $625,000 contract after splitting time from the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, and was not awful during this year’s injury shortened season. In nine games split between defenseman and forward this season, Kostka has three points and a +3 rating. Nonetheless, he has looked out of place alongside Nick Leddy, and occupied a roster spot that could be reserved for someone with more potential.
The Blackhawks now have $837,489 in cap space and 22 players on the active roster, so there is enough room to promote Adam Clendening if the Blackhawks wish to continue operating with eight defensemen. Yet, Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival have split games effectively, so there is minimal reason for another defenseman to occupy the team’s 23rd roster spot.
Another option is to promote Brandon Pirri, although that would create an even deeper log jam at center, with Andrew Shaw, Michal Handzus and Peter Regin currently occupying roster spots. Shaw is a capable wing, but nonetheless, Pirri has yet to get out of Coach Joel Quenneville’s doghouse.
The only other person that has earned significant NHL time this year is Jeremy Morin, who has caught fire in the AHL as of late. While Pirri is on a five-game point streak, Morin extended his to eight last night. The Blackhawks have benched Bryan Bickell before, but promoting a capable left wing for the sake of competition could potentially light a fire underneath the struggling Bickell. Until then, the Blackhawks have a serviceable 22-man roster and can take their time managing any trade requests and promotions.
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