The Chicago Blackhawks have won the recruiting war over Jan Rutta, signing him to an entry-level contract. The 26-year old was only eligible to sign a one-year contract and will be an unrestricted free agent at its conclusion. Rutta had been pursued by several NHL teams after a solid performance at the World Championships and a big season in the Czech Republic. Last month his agent Allen Walsh of Octagon Hockey said that he would sign with an NHL club this year, and both Edmonton and Calgary had been reported to have interest.
Chicago had already signed teammate and fellow Czech free agent David Kampf this spring, as the Blackhawks attempt to fill their fringe roster spots with cheap contracts. The team looks like it will lose another impressive young player because of cap troubles, making European and college free agents the best choice to back-fill their roster with cheap but experienced talent. Though Kampf is only 22 and will likely spend some time in the AHL, Rutta is already 26 and has years of professional experience under his belt. He’ll be in competition for an NHL roster spot right away.
When you watch the 6’3″ right-handed shot, Rutta makes you wonder how he hasn’t already been given a chance in the NHL as he has both the skill and size to make it there. While he won’t wow you with any one tool, he controls his gaps and recovers pucks well enough in his own end and features solid skating ability to get it out of traffic. He does have some flair on the powerplay, where he was used as a quarterback in the Czech Republic. It’s not clear if that would be part of his role in Chicago, but he does have the ability to find open lanes with his shot and get penalty killers moving back and forth.
Pierre LeBrun of TSN was first to break the deal.