The Chicago Blackhawks and center Michal Handzus parted ways on Monday. Handzus was at the end of his one year deal he signed last summer, and he will now test the waters of free agency.
It is unknown how much interest Handzus will draw at his age of 38. For the Blackhawks, Handzus was a solid second-line center who usually played on a line with Patrick Kane and spent a lot of time on the penalty kill. Playing on a line with Kane often made Handzus look better than he actually was.
Playing with the youthful Kane also may have hurt Handzus as well. At times, Handzus seemed to not be able to keep up with Kane’s quickness, which led to shortened minutes towards the end of the season.
In 70 total games with the Blackhawks, Handzus only totaled 22 points in the regular season. While he did not produce much in the regular season, Handzus was a big part of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run last season and made some big plays in their run this season.
Handzus was often the second-line center, which is now a vacant role on the roster. It was not a surprise to Blackhawk fans that Handzus was released, but it leaves the question the team has had since the season began — who is going to fill the role of second-line center?
Names like Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza have been tossed around, but those names will likely be too expensive. Yes, I would be ecstatic if the Blackhawks were able to sign Spezza or Kessler, but the front office has made smart decisions in the past to get to where they are now. Spending the money it would take to bring either of them here would not be in the best interest of the club for the future.
I think the Blackhawks will sign a center in the offseason, but not the caliber of Spezza or Kessler; I also think they will keep Andrew Shaw on the third line. A name I previously mentioned is Dave Bolland, who is an unrestricted free agent who already won a cup with the Blackhawks in 2010 and 2012, so he already knows the system. Bolland would be a great fit to fill center spot behind Jonathan Toews.
Whoever the Blackhawks sign or trade for, the loss of Handzus won’t hurt the team on the ice. However, his leadership in the locker room will be missed.