The Chicago Blackhawks have officially signed free agent goaltender Cam Ward and free agent forward Chris Kunitz each to a one year contract and free agent defenseman Brandon Manning to a two year contract.
OFFICIAL: Forward Chris Kunitz and goaltender Cam Ward have signed 1-year contracts and defenseman Brandon Manning has inked a 2-year deal with the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks have been rumored to be in the mix to sign Ward for awhile now, but the Kunitz and Manning signings have both come out of nowhere. Kunitz had been rumored to be returning to the Pittsburgh Penguins after a single season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but evidently Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman had other ideas…
The 38 year old Kunitz had a pretty productive season last year with the Lightning, scoring 13 goals and 29 points in 82 games. Effectively matching his production from a year prior with the Penguins.
As for Ward, he’ll provide the Blackhawks with some stellar backup goaltending, something they desperately needed, but were unable to manufacture last season. Had Ward been instilled as the Blackhawks’ netminder last season when starter Corey Crawford went down with injury, the team would have almost certainly been in the playoff picture. As it was, the team’s backup platoon of Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass and J.F. Berube were simply not good enough. For what it’s worth, the team was 16-9-2 under Crawford before he was taken out of action. Again, it’s hard not to envision the Blackhawks in the playoffs with Crawford and Ward between the pipes rather than the revolving door of Forsberg, Glass and Berube. Then again… maybe they just hand the back up job to Scott Foster? He couldn’t be any worse than the others…
As for Manning, the 28 year old blue liner had seven goals and 19 points in 65 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last season. He should provide the Blackhawks with suitable option to replace departed blue liner Michal Kempny.
So what do you think Blackhawks fans? Good signings? Does the team have a real shot at qualifying for the playoffs in 2018-19? Are they ready to compete again?