Connor Murphy

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

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USA TODAY

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

The Blackhawks announced Thursday morning that they have reassigned top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman appeared in six games for the Blackhawks and averaged 14:27 of ice time. He scored his first career NHL goal in his second appearance in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2.

But with Connor Murphy (groin) eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday, the Blackhawks had to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant and Boqvist was the obvious candidate to be sent back down.

He’s still in the early stages of his development, but Boqvist certainly held his own at the NHL level during his brief stint. The Blackhawks want him to continue playing top pairing minutes and in all situations, and it would’ve been difficult for him to do that in Chicago with Murphy returning to the lineup.

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Why Connor Murphy is the most valuable defenseman on the Blackhawks

Why Connor Murphy is the most valuable defenseman on the Blackhawks

Connor Murphy may not be the best defenseman on the Blackhawks, but he's certainly the most valuable.

The 26-year-old blue liner missed the first half of last season due to a back injury he suffered during an off-ice workout and has been sidelined for more than half of this season already because of a groin injury.

And you can't ignore the void he has left on the back end for the Blackhawks.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the Blackhawks are 29-20-9 with Murphy in the lineup and 12-21-6 without him. He isn't the flashiest player and won't light up the scoresheet — he's pointless in six games this season — but he's the most dependable defender the Blackhawks have, and they rely on him in many key defensive situations.

No defenseman on the Blackhawks has more defensive zone starts at even strength per 60 minutes (22.1) than Murphy, whose 66.7 percent defensive zone-start ratio on the penalty kill ranks second just behind Duncan Keith (66.9), according to Natural Stat Trick. Murphy was also among the NHL's defensemen leaders last season in quality of ice time against the opposition's top line, making his ice time average of 20:11 that ranks third on the team this season stand out even more because he's eating hard minutes.

The good news? Murphy has been skating on his own for the past few days and he's eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Nov. 16 against the Nashville Predators.

The Blackhawks are hopeful that he'll be ready by then, and when Murphy does draw back into lineup, it should help provide some stability on defense in all situations.

"We hope so," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He got a couple days of skating in, but we want to make sure that he's ready to go. We haven't had much of him this year. It's like five or six games, so he's a pretty big piece of our team and our D corps. I think our team performance is correlated to when he's in the lineup, so we want to get him in and we want to get him in for the rest of the year."

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Connor Murphy placed on long-term injured reserve

Connor Murphy placed on long-term injured reserve

The Blackhawks have announced that defenseman Connor Murphy will be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) due to a groin injury.

Earlier reports stated the 26-year-old Murphy would miss “a couple of weeks” after leaving the second period of the Blackhawks game against the Golden Knights last night. Murphy had previously sat out of the Blackhawks season opener in Prague for the same injury.

LTIR is designed for teams navigating the cap hit when a player is out with a long-term injury. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), this means the player will be out for at least 24 calendar days and 10 regular season games. While LTIR doesn’t create cap space, it does allow a team to replace the player on LTIR with any number of other players to fill the roster hole.

In the case of Murphy, the Blackhawks recoup his $3.85M cap hit for the duration he’s LTIR. The Blackhawks can go over the cap hit for the time being, but once they activate him his entire cap hit goes back on the books. Essentially, the Blackhawks can go over the cap for the time being up to what Murphy was making, plus whatever cap space they had beforehand.

As for who will take Murphy’s place in the lineup, the Blackhawks have a few options. So far, it has been announced they have recalled defenseman Dennis Gilbert from the Rockford IceHogs.

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