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Blackhawks sign Kyle Cumiskey to one-year deal

WASHINGTON — It wasn’t too long ago that defense was by far the Blackhawks’ deepest position, with two elite pairings, three proven veterans vying for the sixth and final spot, and a wealth of highly regarded prospects waiting in Rockford.

These days, however, the Hawks are dangerously thin on the blue line, with most of those prospects (and Johnny Oduya) traded away or allowed to leave over the past two seasons. Help could be on the way, though. Michal Rozsival could be skating with the team as soon as Saturday morning (though he can’t come off long-term injured reserve for another couple of weeks), and Kyle Cumiskey was signed to a one-year contract on Thursday. Cumiskey is healed from a lower-body injury and ready to play, according to Joel Quenneville, but he’ll start in Rockford assuming he clears waivers.

It might not be the caliber of depth the Hawks had when Sheldon Brookbank and Michael Kostka were on the roster two seasons ago, but it’s something. Beyond the seven on the roster (including rookie Viktor Svedberg and frequent healthy scratch David Rundblad) and Rozsival and Cumiskey, perhaps only Erik Gustafsson is close to breaking through to the NHL level, with Ville Pokka next in line behind him.

“I think organizationally, you probably need 10, at least, that you think can play and hopefully got a couple guys grooming that, if pressed on a need basis, they can play,” Quenneville said. “But over the course of different seasons, you get exposed and you get challenged different ways. [If] you’re relatively healthy, you might be 6-7 deep the whole year. Other years, you get to double figures and it’s a whole different challenge.”

When asked if he had 10 NHL-ready defensemen, Quenneville counted up to nine, then added, “could argue one or two there.”

In the past two years, the Hawks have lost Nick Leddy (traded to the Islanders last October) and Johnny Oduya (signed with Dallas this summer), along with the likes of Adam Clendening (traded to Vancouver, now with Pittsburgh), Klas Dahlbeck (traded to Arizona), Ryan Stanton (claimed by Vancouver, now with Washington’s AHL affiliate) and Dylan Olsen (traded to Florida).

Cumiskey, who had no goals or assists in seven regular-season games and nine playoff games for the Hawks last season, had been on a player-tryout contract with the IceHogs.