On Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks put defenceman David Rundblad on waivers. The 25-year-old rearguard has been with the organization for parts of three seasons, playing 63 games, putting up 16 points and managing a plus-14 rating along with decent underlying numbers.
He never won over head coach Joel Quenneville, though. Rundblad fell out of favour in 2014-15, and never found his way back. He’s played just nine games this season and Chicago’s management now seems to have bowed to the inevitable.
Blackhawks place David Rundblad on waivers.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) December 28, 2015
Rundblad was a first round pick of St. Louis (17th overall) in the 2009 Draft, selected seven picks after former Oiler Magnus Paajarvi and four after current Oiler Zack Kassian. His trade history since that point shows both his great potential as well as the decline in his relative value:
- 2009: Drafted No. 17 overall
- 2010: Traded by St. Louis to Ottawa for the No. 16 overall pick (Vladimir Tarasenko)
- 2011: Traded by Ottawa to Arizona with a second-round pick for Kyle Turris
- 2014: Traded by Arizona to Chicago with ECHL’er Mathieu Brisebois for a second-round pick
One thing worth noting here is that current Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen was working in St. Louis on the amateur scouting side.
Rundblad was praised for his intelligence, vision and offensive instincts in his draft year; one scout quoted by The Hockey News said he’d enjoy a long NHL career and that “he has poise beyond his years.” He was compared to draft peer Victor Hedman by another scout, who described Rundblad’s offensive skills as being superior to those of his countryman.
In 2010-11, Rundblad put up 50 points in 55 games in Sweden’s top league. Writing for THN, Bruce Garrioch said that he had “the offensive bent of Erik Karlsson” but that his development was “further along.”
Rundblad made the NHL immediately upon arriving in North America, but when the Coyotes acquired him they decided to give him some development time in the AHL. His last full season in the minors was in 2012-13; he put up 39 points in 50 games.
Chicago liked him enough to take on a dead contract and part with a second-round pick, but Rundblad never was given much of a shot by his new coach. The offensive specialist was given barely any power play time; instead Quenneville (understandably) stuck with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as his two power play defencemen. At even-strength, he averaged just over 12 minutes per game, playing with an assortment of partners and enjoying success with pretty much all of them. He had a 58% Corsi number and Chicago averaged more than 3.0 goals/hour when he played with Keith, but he also had a 56% Corsi number and Chicago averaged more than 3.0 goals/hour (and less than 1.0 goals/hour against) when he played with Michal Rozsival.
He was certainly sheltered and was playing with a good team, but he was good enough that he should latch on somewhere. Interestingly, the player replacing him on the roster is none other than Erik Gustafsson, a fourth-round pick of the Oilers in 2012 who the team opted not to offer a contract. Gustafsson has 11 points in 27 games for Chicago’s AHL affiliate, and put up three points in six previous games with the Blackhawks.
Should the Oilers Put in a Claim?
Brad Hunt and Nikita Nikitin are both currently on Edmonton’s NHL roster.
It isn’t actually quite that simple, of course. Hunt and Nikitin are both left-shot defencemen and are only on the roster because Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson are hurt. Eventually, those guys will come back and the defence will start looking a little more respectable.
Having said that, the Oilers have a lot of uncertainty on their right side at the moment. Justin Schultz is a pending restricted free agent who will need to be qualified at nearly $4.0 million. Mark Fayne is under contract at slightly less but clearly has fallen out of favour with the coach and cleared waivers earlier this year. Eric Gryba is a pending unrestricted free agent. All three of those players could be gone when Edmonton kicks off next season.
Additionally, the Oilers are currently in great need of a power play point man. It’s why Hunt is with the team, and Hunt’s defensive liabilities are such that I wonder if Edmonton doesn’t go with 11 forwards and seven defencemen when the team opts to dress him. Rundblad’s skill on the man advantage is such that it is not an exaggeration to say that Edmonton could claim him one day and build its first unit power play around him the next.
Rundblad is under contract for another year after this one, but at a modest $1.05 million cap hit.
It won’t be a crime if the Oilers pass on this player. Having said that, I’d be inclined to put a claim in if I were Peter Chiarelli. At worst he’s a right-shot No. 6/7 defenceman and power play specialist. At best he might be considerably more than that. Edmonton needs to add a lot of things to its back end and one of those needed items is a defenceman who can man the power play point both more cheaply and more effectively than Schultz has this year. Rundblad is a reasonable bet to fit the bill.