Blackhawks sign Czech defenseman Jan Rutta to one-year deal

The Blackhawks have bolstered their blue line by signing Czech defenseman Jan Rutta to a one-year contract, a source confirmed Wednesday. Rutta is the third Czech import the Hawks have signed recently, following defenseman Michal Kempny last year and forward David Kampf last month.

The 6-3 Rutta, who turns 27 next month, fills a need as a right-handed shot. He had eight goals and 24 assists in 46 games for Pirati Chomutov of the Czech Extraliga, the top league in the Czech Republic. Rutta and Kampf were teammates for the past three seasons.

“Jan has been on our radar for a number of years and he has shown great progress on the ice during that time,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “His addition to the organization makes our defense more dynamic and he has shown he can contribute offensively as well.”

With Johnny Oduya gone and Brian Campbell unlikely to return, the Hawks need help on defense. It’s also possible they lose Trevor van Riemsdyk to Vegas in the expansion draft. Van Riemsdyk also could be traded elsewhere before the draft to ensure the Hawks don’t lose him for no return, or he could be traded to Vegas to ensure the Golden Knights take Marcus Kruger and his $3.08-million cap hit off the Hawks’ books.

Czech Republic's Jan Rutta (right) celebrates after scoring against France in the World Championships on May 14. (AP Photo)

It’s also expected that the Hawks will name 16-year NHL veteran and former Joel Quenneville teammate Ulf Samuelsson an assistant coach in the coming days. Samuelsson would replace Mike Kitchen, whom Bowman fired in a move that surprised and upset Quenneville, who considers Kitchen one of his closest friends. Samuelsson was the head coach of the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers last season, leading them to a 39-29-8 record after eight seasons as an assistant with the Coyotes and Rangers.

The Hawks are considering adding a third assistant coach to Quenneville’s staff in something of a compromise between Quenneville and the front office. According to the source, since Quenneville is getting his man in Samuelsson, a potential new hire would be someone primarily of Bowman’s choosing.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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