Czech Republic’s Jan Rutta (left) vs. Russia’s Dmitri Orlov during a World Championship game on May 18, 2017.
The Blackhawks have found another defenseman for next season on the free-agent market, and it appears they have found their next assistant coach who will be in charge of the blue line.
The Hawks bolstered their blue line for next season by signing free-agent defenseman Jan Rutta out of the Czech Republic, a source confirmed to the Tribune.
Rutta, 26, was a sought after free agent and last played for Pirati Chomutov of the Czech Hockey League.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the Hawks have likely found their replacement for assistant coach Mike Kitchen in former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, a source said. Multiple reports said Samuelsson accepted the job.
The Tribune reported last month Samuelsson was the leading candidate to replace Kitchen. Samuelsson is a former NHL defenseman and should make head coach Joel Quenneville comfortable behind the bench after Bowman fired Kitchen, Quenneville’s good friend, in April. It was a move that surprised and angered Quenneville.
But Quenneville will have familiarity with Samuelsson — he and Samuelsson were teammates with the Hartford Whalers for parts of six seasons from 1984-1990.
Samuelsson is likely to handle the duties Kitchen vacated, which includes overseeing the defensemen and the Hawks’ penalty kill.
Samuelsson was most recently coach of the Charlotte Checkers, the AHL affiliate of the Hurricanes after he served as an assistant with the Rangers from 2013-16. He was also head coach of Modo Hockey in the Swedish Hockey League from 2011-13 and prior to that was an assistant with the Coyotes from 2006-11.