The Blackhawks and Lightning have gotten together on a trade involving a pair of depth defensemen looking for a fresh start, with Jan Rutta heading to Tampa Bay and Slater Koekkoek is coming to Chicago. The Blackhawks also acquired a fifth-round selection in 2019 and are sending their seventh-rounder to the Lightning.
In an effort to give their younger defenseman in the organization a look, Rutta was squeezed out of the Blackhawks lineup in December and it was hard to see a path where he'd be back with the big club. The trade gives him an opportunity to latch on elsewhere and the Stanley Cup favorite Lightning insurance on the back end for their stretch run and playoffs.
Rutta, 28, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and carries a $1.225 million cap hit, which the Blackhawks were eating some of while he was in Rockford, so it's a bit of a money-saver.
As far as the return, Koekkoek is a former first-round pick (No. 10 overall) in 2012 but hasn't been able to reach his potential in the NHL. The 24-year-old left-handed shot defenseman has appeared in only nine games this season, and has one goal. He was recently sent to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League for a conditioning assignment.
Koekkoek is set to become a restricted free agent this summer for the second straight year after signing Tampa Bay's qualifying offer for one-year, $865,000. The remainder of the season will likely serve as an audition for him and whether he can solidify a spot in the organization, although it could be a crowded young blue line in 2019-20.
With Gustav Forsling (upper torso) on injured reserve and Duncan Keith battling an illness, Koekkoek will remain on the 23-man roster for now.
Moving up two rounds in the NHL Draft is a nice bonus for the Blackhawks as well. Some notable fifth-round picks in recent memory for the Blackhawks: Marcus Kruger, Luke Johnson and Andrew Shaw.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.