CHICAGO – The Blackhawks re-signed a pair of veterans and added another Friday while saying goodbye to two more members of their Stanley Cup championship team.
Michal Rozsival and Michal Handzus will be back when the puck drops next season. Viktor Stalberg and Ray Emery will be elsewhere.
To replace Emery, the Hawks agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who won 90 games for the Hawks from 2005 to 2009.
The roster moves were announced Friday during a busy day of free-agent signings across the league. Much of the Hawks’ offseason work already had been completed after they had re-signed Bryan Bickell and Nick Leddy to multi-year contracts while trading Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik to clear salary-cap space.
Rozsival, 34, agreed to a two-year contract after tallying 12 assists in 27 regular-season games and four assists in 23 playoff games. His deal means that the Hawks will return all seven of their top defenseman: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, Rozsival, Leddy and Sheldon Brookbank.
Handzus, 36, thrived with the Hawks after he was acquired as part of a midseason trade with the San Jose Sharks. He notched six points in 11 regular-season games with the Hawks before adding 11 points in 23 playoff games.
Khabibulin's starts have diminished in the past few seasons, but he might be effective in small doses. In 12 appearances this season with the Edmonton Oilers, he went 4-6-1 with a 2.54 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.
Although the departures of Stalberg and Emery will weaken the Hawks, their decisions to sign with other teams were expected. Stalberg signed a four-year deal with the Nashville Predators after a quiet playoff run that included two stints as a healthy scratch, while Emery signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers because they offered him the opportunity to make more starts in net.
It’s likely that Stalberg’s exit could create an opportunity for one of the Hawks’ young forwards. Ben Smith spent most of the season with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL but filled in for Marian Hossa during a playoff game, while Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin and Jimmy Hayes are among other prospects eager for a chance.
If Khabibulin fails to earn the No. 2 goaltender job, the Hawks could turn to Finnish prospect Antti Raanta as the backup option to No. 1 starter Corey Crawford.