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Blackhawks claim Nick Seeler off waivers from Wild, adding defensive depth

The 26-year-old defenseman was waived by the Wild after playing in only six NHL games this season.

Nick Seeler played in six of the Wild’s 51 games this season before being waived. The Hawks claimed him Monday and sent down defenseman Dennis Gilbert.
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Nick Seeler skated onto the Xcel Energy Center ice for practice Monday the same way he has for years, comfortably at home in the arena of the Wild organization that drafted him in 2011 and has worked with him for the last nine years.

But he did so wearing red, as a member of the Blackhawks.

“It’s been a kind of crazy day,” he said. “You go from not knowing if you’re going to get picked up somewhere, to getting picked up by the team that the Wild are playing the next day.”

Seeler had played in just six of 51 games this year, sitting uselessly as a healthy scratch except for a six-game AHL conditioning stint, so the Wild waived him Sunday in hopes of getting him to the AHL for good.

Of course, Seeler — a 26-year-old defenseman who was an NHL regular as recently as last season, making 71 appearances — hoped for a different outcome.

“The last thing I wanted to do was clear waivers,” he said. “We just kept saying, ‘It just takes one team.’ ”

“I was at my apartment in Minneapolis [this morning] and got the call from my agent. Obviously, I was ecstatic and excited, because I didn’t get much sleep, let’s just say that.”

Unfortunately for him, Seeler likely will occupy a similar role with the Blackhawks that he did with the Wild, as the No. 7 defenseman retained primarily as a spare body but rarely in the lineup.

Dennis Gilbert had assumed that role in recent weeks, last appearing Jan. 7. But the Hawks see the 23-year-old as a prospect who will benefit more from playing big minutes in Rockford. They sent him down just hours after claiming Seeler on Monday.

“[Gilbert] had a stretch where he was really good for us and we couldn’t take him out,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “All of a sudden, things flipped, and Koekkoek does the same thing. . . . It’s a balancing act, but we want [Gilbert] to play games so he can make more of an impact down the road.”

Colliton said Seeler, who is 6-2 with a solid frame, brings “some physicality, some toughness,” but he mainly emphasized the much-needed depth that having an additional experienced defenseman will bring.

After all, Seeler hasn’t shown much offensive upside, tallying just two goals and nine assists in 99 games with the Wild, and his advanced defensive numbers are decent but unremarkable, with 47.7 percent shot-attempt and 48 percent scoring-chance ratios. He has another year left at a cheap $725,000 salary-cap hit after this season.

One comment Colliton made — “It may take a little time to get him into the group and up to speed” — confirmed the theory that Seeler probably won’t play against his former team Tuesday. He did seem confused about his coverage assignment in at least one drill during practice, although new locker-mate Connor Murphy quickly directed him.

The relatively small transaction marks general manager Stan Bowman’s first external addition since November, and with the trade deadline just three weeks away, that is notable.

Colliton said the imminent deadline won’t significantly affect his lineup decisions but admitted it will increase the frequency of his conversations with Bowman.

In the meantime, though, Seeler will try to make an impact with the Hawks.

“I add that physical presence and am good in the defensive zone and good on the [penalty kill],” he said. ‘‘I think I can jump up in the play and contribute more offensively than I have in the past.”