By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) It’s another summer, another offseason of Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman trying to reload his roster under the tight constraints of the salary cap. While there’s still a ton of work to be done, Bowman may have already made one his of his most important acquisitions.
The Blackhawks have signed Czech defenseman Michal Kempny, according to multiple reports. Kempny, 25, spent last season in Russia’s KHL, where he scored 21 points (five goals) with Avengard Omsk. During the recent IIHF World Championships, Kempny starred on defense for the Czech Republic team and was named one of the team’s three stars of the tournament.
While terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed, Kempny will be on a one-year deal with a cap hit no higher than $925,000.
So what can Blackhawks fan expect from Kempny?
Well, some fans will expect him to burst on the scene and be an immediate star, like the Blackhawks last international free agent signing, Artemi Panarin. That won’t be the case.
Kempny’s game is defense first, and while he’s a well-rounded player who can contribute offensively, look for him to lock up the fourth or fifth spot on the Hawks defense. He should be a Day 1 starter and should play the large majority of the games for the Blackhawks. Kempny isn’t a project. He’s here to play and play right away.
Now that Kempny is in the fold, Bowman will shift his focus on the rest of the roster.
As it stands right now, the Blackhawks have five roster spots to fill with about $6 million of cap space. It won’t be easy, but if Bowman has proved anything, it’s that he can work the cap as well as any general manager in the game.
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast with James Neveau of NBCChicago.com that you can listen and subscribe to here. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.