It was announced hours before the Blackhawks Convention opens that the team had reached an agreement with free agent defenseman Sami Lepisto on a one-year deal.
What does this mean to the blue line for the Hawks this year? Let’s take a look.
First, the Hawks now have seven defensemen on their NHL roster without including John Scott. When they began their title defense last October, Nick Leddy was forced to make his NHL debut on Opening Night because of Brian Campbell’s injury; this year, the Hawks have veteran depth that stacks up significantly better than the options Joel Quenneville was given last season.
Here’s the personnel difference:
We looked at the improvement back on July 4, but with Lepisto on the roster now we can make more concrete comparisons; at this point, it appears the Blackhawks roster is filled without Chris Campoli.
The five defensemen on the right contributed 189 hits and 200 hits in 198 games last season. The three on the left combined for 211 hits and 304 blocks in 224 games.
Those ratios work out to be nearly equal: last year’s players combined to average 0.96 hits and 1.01 blocks per game, while the three incoming players combined to average 0.94 hits and 1.36 blocks per game.
What’s the bigger difference?
The three defensemen skating in Chicago will make, combined, less than 70 percent of Brian Campbell’s salary from last year.
Lepisto averaged 17:55 on ice per game last year, finishing with 16 points and a plus-10 rating. He probably fits into the rotation as a 6/7 defenseman with Sean O’Donnell. The addition of another veteran capable of skating 15-20 minutes per game should afford Quenneville the flexibility to skate his top defenseman fewer minutes each night.