Who Are Some Potential Bargain Signings the Blackhawks Might Consider in Free Agency?

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Oskar Lindblom Flyers

Who Are Some Potential Bargain Signings the Blackhawks Might Consider in Free Agency?

Chicago Blackhawks

With free agency beginning tomorrow, the Blackhawks are in a completely different place than they have been in more than a decade. They aren’t looking to sign the right player to get them back into championship contention any more. They’re looking for value additions to the lineup to make them… well, we’ll say moderately competitive.

The NHL free agent list is now filled with players who didn’t receive qualifying offers or have been bought out as teams prepare to navigate free agency in a world where the salary cap ceiling hasn’t gone up much in the past couple years. And the Blackhawks might be able to find good value on the scrap heap.

What could/should the Blackhawks be looking for in a free agent? Well, if you think about rebuilding teams that are looking to stockpile assets for the future, Chicago’s shopping list is likely going to consist of players who could have trade value at the deadline if they take advantage of the opportunity they’re afforded on a roster lacking any star power.

So let’s look at a few names that are hitting the market tomorrow who might make sense for the Blackhawks and the player.

Oskar Lindblom, LW

Lindblom, 25, had the final year of his contract bought out by the Flyers on Tuesday. The move was a bit surprising and also disappointing because the Flyers had made him a feel-good story since he recovered after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. As part of his buyout, the Flyers donated $100,000 in Lindblom’s name to a Philadelphia organization that supports families impacted by cancer.

On the ice, Lindblom returned to full-time duty with Philly last year and scored 12 goals in 79 games. Listed at 6-1 and 191 pounds, he’s a solid forward who has recovered his strength and plays a good game. With a potential top-six role being available in Chicago, he could be a guy who increases his value for a next contract — and, helping the Blackhawks, at the trade deadline this coming season.

Sam Steel, C

Steel was the 30th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Now 24, he never found it in Anaheim and did not receive a qualifying offer from the Ducks. He’s scored 24 goals in 197 games in his NHL career to date.

He did win 49.3 percent of his faceoffs last year for the Ducks, however, so there’s a chance he could be a decent middle-six, low-risk signing for the Blackhawks who now have… Tyler Johnson?… at center behind Jonathan Toews for next season.

Sonny Milano, LW

Like Steel, Milano is a former first-round pick who didn’t receive a QO from Anaheim. Milano, the 16th overall pick by Columbus in 2014, tied his career-high with 14 goals last season in 66 games for the Ducks.

Milano averaged better than 15 minutes per game for the Ducks last season and has decent size (6-0, 194) and saw better than two minutes of power play ice time per game. Again, this is a player who could personally benefit from an increased role in his mid-20s who might view Chicago as a means to an end, and could bring additional assets back to the Blackhawks at the deadline.

Rūdolfs Balcers, RW/LW

Balcers, 25, saw more than one full minute of penalty kill time in San Jose last season. He can play either wing and scored 11 goals in 61 games last season for the Sharks. Originally a fifth-round pick by the Sharks in 2015, his buyout this week was a bit of a surprise because he was a valuable player in San Jose who skated more than 15 minutes per night.

If the Blackhawks are looking for a player to help on penalty kill duty, he could be a piece they consider. Also, all 11 of his goals last season came at even-strength, so there’s value in him as a 5-on-5 player.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab