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Blackhawks allow Dennis Rasmussen to become unrestricted free agent

Dennis Rasmussen had four goals in each of the last two seasons. (Getty Images)

The Blackhawks didn’t tender a qualifying offer to forward Dennis Rasmussen, making him an unrestricted free agent and all but certainly ending his tenure with the team.

A source last weekend said the Hawks likely were going to make a qualifying offer to Rasmussen, which would require only the league minimum of one year at $650,000, but something obviously changed.

A versatile and capable bottom-six player, Rasmussen played left wing and center for the Hawks and was a strong penalty-killer. With fourth-line center and penalty-killer Marcus Kruger still likely to be traded to get the Hawks under the salary cap, Rasmussen seemed like an obvious player to bring back.

But another source said the Hawks soured on Rasmussen in March, when he turned down a contract extension, hoping for a bigger bump in pay. Rasmussen promptly was benched for seven of eight games — after playing in 45 of 47 leading up to that point — and the Hawks eventually decided to part ways with him.

A league source said the Hawks didn’t tender winger Tomas Jurco his qualifying offer until the last minute Monday, so it’s possible they were deciding between the two bottom-six forwards.

Rasmussen, an undrafted free agent signed out of Sweden, will turn 27 on Monday. He had eight goals and nine assists in 112 games with the Hawks and had hoped to return. Instead, he’ll have to look elsewhere when free agency opens Saturday.

With Andrew Desjardins an unrestricted free agent, too, the Hawks’ bottom six is relatively thin. But new acquisition Laurent Dauphin might be in the mix with players such as Jordin Tootoo, John Hayden, Vinnie Hinostroza and Kyle Baun for the last couple of spots in the lineup.

The Hawks also signed defenseman Ville Pokka to a one-year contract worth $650,000. He was acquired from the New York Islanders as part of the Nick Leddy trade nearly three years ago but hasn’t been able to crack the Hawks’ lineup. He has 24 goals and 81 assists in three seasons for Rockford of the American Hockey League.

Also, the IceHogs signed forward Tommy Olczyk, a son of broadcaster Eddie Olczyk, to a one-year contract. Olczyk played at Penn State for four years and in the East Coast Hockey League last season.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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