Defenseman Mike Kostka had three points in nine games with the Blackhawks this year. Even with little production in a small number of games, the Tampa Bay Lightning claimed Kostka off waivers from Chicago. In doing so, the Bolts did the Hawks a huge favor.
Why does that matter?
According to Capgeek, the Blackhawks had 49 contracts on their books before Kostka was claimed. The limit for contracts in each organization is 50 during any season.
The Blackhawks currently have at least two players among their top prospects that will be completing their college hockey careers in the coming weeks that they should want to sign, and would have needed to make another move before the deadline to clear space for them.
Forward Kevin Hayes is having a big season at Boston College, and defenseman Stephen Johns is a strong, stay-at-home defenseman who is finishing his career at Notre Dame. The Hawks also own the rights to senior defenseman Justin Holl at Minnesota.
Under the terms of the CBA, the Hawks have 30 days after their careers end to sign them, or they become free agents. The most recent, notable case of a college player hitting free agency was defenseman Justin Schultz, who was drafted by Anaheim but signed with Edmonton.
The Hawks might still look to make moves before the trade deadline, but moving Kostka opens up enough space for the Hawks to get Hayes and Johns signed and, possibly, contributing in Rockford before the end of this season.
Another prospect to keep an eye on as we get closer to the trade deadline Dillon Fournier, a defenseman the team drafted in 2012. By rule, the Hawks own the rights of draft picks for two years but Fournier remains unsigned.
Fournier was having a good season (13 goals, 19 assists in 36 games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL) before his season ended prematurely this season because of injury.