It’s been fun, but with the team struggling to find itself on the ice now is the time for the Blackhawks to begin making tough roster decisions.
And the first, and easiest, of those decisions is cutting defenseman Sami Lepisto loose.
Over the summer, the Blackhawks signed Lepisto, 27, to a one-year, $750k deal to add depth to the blue line.
All he’s done is sit as the 23rd man on a swollen roster.
Coach Joel Quenneville has preferred skating John Scott as a defenseman this year to Lepisto; Scott has played in 13 of the Hawks’ first 26 games, while Lepisto has only seen action in eight contests. Lepisto hasn’t been a factor on either special teams, and hasn’t been in a game since the Nov. 18 loss at Calgary.
In 108 minutes of total ice time with the Hawks this year, Lepisto has blocked three shots and has been credited with eight hits. He has zero points, is plus-four, and has four penalty minutes.
If you have’t noticed yet, Lepisto has been essentially worthless to the 2011-12 Blackhawks.
There are a number of defensemen in Rockford that could benefit from NHL experience, and the organization could benefit long-term from seeing what they have on their AHL roster. By dumping Lepisto, the Hawks would not only open up more cap space, but would make a valuable roster spot available in Chicago.
One of the defensemen that could get a phone call in Rockford is Ryan Stanton. Listed at 6’2″ and 205 pounds, Stanton is one of the more mature defensemen in Rockford who plays a physical game. At 22, Stanton has one more year after this on his entry-level contract.
On Friday afternoon, the Hawks made a minor trade that sent Rob Klinkhammer to Ottawa. Klinkhammer had been in Rockford for some time, and clearly wasn’t going to get a shot in Chicago. Clearly there are enough talented young prospects in the organization that keeping older players on the AHL roster isn’t going to make much sense as the season progresses.
Stanton has been a physical defenseman and willing shot-blocker over the last couple seasons, and could be provide a different look on the back end than Scott and Sean O’Donnell.
If Quenneville isn’t going to play Lepisto anyway, why keep him on the NHL roster? By dumping Lepisto, the Hawks could start seeing what they have in Rockford, and possibly find someone who can make a positive impact at the next level.