The Blackhawks announced they signed 23-year-old Czech winger Dominik Kubalik to a one-year contract Wednesday.
General manager Stan Bowman traded the Hawks’ fifth-round pick in the upcoming draft to the Kings in January to acquire Kubalik’s NHL rights. They said throughout the spring that they expected to sign Kubalik and bring him to North America for the 2019-20 season.
Kubalik has played the last two seasons in the NLA, the top hockey league in Switzerland, and led the league in scoring this past season with 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists) in 50 games. He said on a conference call Wednesday that his season took off after a midseason meeting led to increased playing time and a bigger power-play role.
He also stars on the Czech national team. He tallied 12 points in 10 games in the just-concluded world championships as the Czechs reached the semifinals.
“The world championships helped me a lot because I got to be in the locker room with Jake Voracek and some of those guys who have been already playing in the NHL for a couple years,” Kubalik said. “There’s always something to learn from them. I tried to show that I can play with them.”
The 6-foot forward joins Anton Wedin as the Hawks’ second European signing this month.
Kubalik’s situation differed from that of Wedin, David Kampf and Dominik Kahun (and other recent cross-continental Hawks pickups) in that the Hawks already owned his rights. Kubalik said he knows Kampf and Kahun well.
However, the signings of Wedin and Kubalik have put the Hawks into something of a contract conundrum. They now have 36 players under contract and another 10 pending restricted free agents, whose rights they maintain as long as they issue a qualifying offer next month.
Victor Ejdsell, one of those RFAs, recently signed in Sweden, so he can be crossed off the list. Nevertheless, re-signing the other nine RFAs would push the Hawks uncomfortably close to the 50-contract maximum, leaving little wiggle room for free-agent additions and trades in July and beyond. Expect at least a few RFAs to be left unqualified. Spencer Watson and Blake Hillman could be among the casualties.