The Blackhawks have a strong track record when it comes to landing undrafted European free agents and they did it again by signing forward Pius Suter to a one-year, entry-level contract for the 2020-21 season at a cap hit of $925,000.
Suter, 24, was named MVP of Switzerland's National League-A this season after leading all skaters in goals (30) and points (53) in 50 games for the ZSC Lions. Dominik Kubalik recorded 25 goals and led all skaters with 57 points in the same league last season, which earned him MVP honors.
Because of his breakout season, there were reportedly at least nine NHL teams bidding for Suter's services. And the Blackhawks won out.
"It's a good spot for me to earn my spot and be helpful to the team," Suter said in a video conference call on Monday. "At the end, it was just a decision I felt most comfortable with."
Suter is a player the Blackhawks have followed "pretty closely," according to GM Stan Bowman, and they were fortunate to have some inside information, too. Marc Crawford was the head coach of the Lions during Suter's rookie season in 2015-16, so that familiarity certainly helped for both sides.
"He gave me a chance," Suter said of Crawford. "I had a good preseason and I got to play right away with really good players, and that gave me some confidence. I played on the [penalty kill], so that helped a lot. I learned a lot and obviously it was a part of it."
Kubalik played against Suter in the Swiss league and then again on the national team, so he knows what kind of skill set Suter has.
"He's a pretty good shooter," Kubalik said. "So many points are coming from the power play in Switzerland, and he was the guy that ran the power play. I know he was switching some spots, sometimes he'd play on the wall. I know he can play physical, so that's pretty good, too. I'm really happy that we have someone here from Swiss again."
At 5-foot-11, 176 pounds, Suter plays a different type of game than Kubalik and is a little more versatile. He can play center or wing, can produce on offense and also takes pride in playing solid defensively.
"You certainly can see his offensive potential," Bowman said. "He's got the ability to make plays but also put the puck in the net. He scores a lot of his goals in tight. He's got quick hands. We think he's going to be an NHL player for us next year; we expect him to be on our team."
The Blackhawks expect Suter to compete for a full-time roster spot next season and the question is really about where he'll fit into the lineup. And while it would be unfair to place Calder Trophy expectations on him, Suter has the potential to make an impact right away.
"My mindset is just to show my best and earn a spot on the team and go from there," Suter said. "Show them what I can do, be 100 percent. ... For me, it's just important to make the team and then work my way up."