It looks like the Blackhawks will have a very similar blue line in the 2018-19 season.
Tuesday, the Blackhawks and 25-year-old Erik Gustafsson agreed to a two-year contract extension. Thursday, the team agreed to a one-year deal with defenseman Jan Rutta, which reportedly is worth $2.25 million.
Rutta, 27, leads Blackhawks' defensemen with six goals this season, his first in the NHL. The Blackhawks signed him last summer after he received interest from multiple NHL teams.
Sounds like $2.25M AAV https://t.co/B8TRGt7q5c— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 8, 2018
Re-signing Gustafsson and Rutta are somewhat surprising moves considering how relatively inexperienced the Blackhawks' blue line is. Jordan Oesterle (66), Gustafsson (61), Rutta (43) and Carl Dahlstrom (11) all have less than a full season of NHL experience. Rutta, however, did play overseas in the Czech league for several seasons.
Outside of their inexperienced blue line, the Blackhawks are projected to have considerable cap space this summer after being up-against the NHL's salary cap more often than not in recent years.
By re-signing Gustafsson and Rutta, though, the Blackhawks now have seven defensemen under contract for the 2018-19 season. Five of those players will make $1 million or more.
And that doesn't include Gustav Forsling, who has a $872,500 cap hit and could be in that group next season. #Blackhawks— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) March 8, 2018
This is not to say that the Blackhawks will not sign a defenseman in free agency, but it does mean that they have slightly less cap space available for free agency. Ultimately, only time will tell whether or not they bring another defenseman aboard this summer.