NHL free agency is officially underway, and the Blackhawks announced in the first hour that they have signed center Ryan Carpenter to a three-year contract that carries a cap hit of $1 million.
Carpenter is 28 years old, a right-handed shot, an effective penalty killer and has a career faceoff win percentage of 50.6. He also comes on an affordable short-term contract, which was important to the Blackhawks as they prepare to extend Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome next summer.
"We're super excited to be part of the Blackhawks," Carpenter said on Monday's conference call. "I mean, just in the past so many years, there's been such a high expectation of winning and rightfully so with how many Cups they've won in the last 10 years. ... Two of the important things for me: I just wanted to have a chance to play a role. My role as a player is a bottom-six forward, good PKer, good right-handed faceoff centerman, and a guy that just does all the little things right. Teams that win and make the playoffs and go on long runs, they need those kinds of players to be successful.
"I know the Hawks have a ton of scoring too, so hopefully just able to come in and contribute and establish myself with that role."
Carpenter isn't known for his offensive production, but he's coming off a season in which he set a career-high in assists (13) and points (18) in 68 games for the Vegas Golden Knights. He was a healthy scratch for all seven games in the postseason, but appeared in 17 playoff games for the Golden Knights during their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017-18 and recorded five assists over that stretch.
Carpenter, who was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Jose Sharks in 2014 and claimed off waivers by Vegas in 2017, is expected to compete for a bottom-six role this season. The Blackhawks also re-signed versatile forward David Kampf, so there will certainly be some competition up the middle.
"We talked to Ryan earlier in the process, one of the guys we targeted," GM Stan Bowman said. "We felt he’d be a nice addition on a couple of different levels. He’s had a lot of success recently in Vegas playing a style, a role on the team we wanted for our team, and he’s been very good at it. What I mean is he fills a couple different elements with penalty killing, faceoffs, good two-way play. He’s a worker, he's a great team player, he’s the kind of guy who gets maybe overlooked sometimes, but your team doesn’t win if you don’t have people like Ryan Carpenter.
"I had a great conversation with him, Jeremy [Colliton] had a few conversations explaining how we envision his role on the team, what we thought he could bring to the table. It was nice to hear he saw himself in the same way. He was excited about the role he’s going to have on our team. It was nice when our vision of his play matched up well with what he was looking to do. And that worked out."