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updated: 7/5/2013 11:40 PM

Hawks bring back Khabibulin in surprise move

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  • The Blackhawks continued their busy offseason Friday when they re-signed key unrestricted free agents Michal Rozsival and Michal Handzus. However, they lost backup goalie Ray Emery and winger Viktor Stalberg.

    The Blackhawks continued their busy offseason Friday when they re-signed key unrestricted free agents Michal Rozsival and Michal Handzus. However, they lost backup goalie Ray Emery and winger Viktor Stalberg.
    Associated Press


It was both an eventful and surprising day for the Blackhawks on Friday on the first day of NHL free agency.

While the Hawks lost backup goalie Ray Emery to Philadelphia and third-line winger Viktor Stalberg to Nashville, they re-signed defenseman Michal Rozsival and center Michal Handzus.

But the biggest news of the day came late Friday night when they signed veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to a one-year contract that reportedly could be worth up to $2 million.

The 40-year-old Khabibulin was 4-6-1 with a .923 save percentage and 2.54 goals against average last season with the Edmonton Oilers.

"He's still got a lot of game left in him," said Hawks general manager Stan Bowman.

The 34-year-old Rozsival got a two-year deal for an undisclosed amount of money while the 36-year-old Handzus signed a one-year contract for $1 million.

"Those guys were huge for us in the playoffs and in the season and it's good to see those guys come back," Bryan Bickell said while at Wrigley Field for the game between the Cubs and Pirates. "I know they wanted to (stay). It took awhile for them to be a winner and they feel this is the team they can come back to and do it again. They had a good time here."

Rozsival had 12 assists in 27 games during the regular season, adding 4 more assists in 23 playoff games when he was invaluable to the Hawks' Stanley Cup run.

Handzus was acquired from San Jose on April 1 and had 11 points, including 3 goals, in the playoffs. Handzus scored critical goals in the Game 6 comeback win at Detroit and in Game 4 against Boston in the Finals, short-handed no less.

All this while playing hurt.

"Everybody had something from our team," Handzus said last week. "It's the playoffs, the Stanley Cup Final and you're not going to be healthy in the fourth round. I had some (injuries), but a lot of guys did. Don't have to talk about it. I could play and I tried to help as much as I could."

Handzus is a big body who can play on the second, third or fourth line at center or wing. The plan still appears to be to give Brandon Pirri a long look at training camp to be the second-line center.

Bringing back Rozsival gives the Hawks the same seven defensemen who ended the season here in Rozsival, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, Nick Leddy and Sheldon Brookbank.

Leddy's signing as a restricted free agent on Wednesday was for a $2.7 million cap hit.

Where this leaves Adam Clendening remains to be seen, although Hawks coach Joel Quenneville believes you can never have too many defensemen.

Stalberg will get $12 million over four years from Nashville, a bit much for a third-line player who had no goals in 19 playoff games and who has 1 in 32 career postseason games.

The Predators are likely to try Stalberg as a top-six forward. His 23 points with the Hawks would have put him third on the offensively challenged Predators.

Emery got only $1.65 million from the Flyers, who have him penciled in to perhaps start ahead of Steve Mason.

However it shakes out in Philadelphia, Emery saw a chance to increase his playing time as opposed to sitting behind Corey Crawford.

"In Philly, it's a new situation and a place where I could play more games," said Emery, now 30, in a conference call with Philadelphia reporters. "I changed my outlook. When I was younger, I wanted to play all the games, and kind of got a pouty attitude when I didn't.

"You start to realize that if the team is successful, everyone does well. It's a better working relationship that way. It's a different philosophy. You learn and you grow. It's fun to have a great group of guys that learn and get to grow. Especially, sharing success."

Emery appeared in 21 games with the Hawks this season and went 17-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. He posted an NHL-record 12 straight wins to start the year.

Nashville also signed Rockford goalie Carter Hutton as an unrestricted free agent and will reportedly give him a chance to backup Pekka Rinne.

The only pressing piece of business left for Hawks general manager Stan Bowman is re-signing restricted free agent center Marcus Kruger.

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