On December 17th, 2011, I was headed to my first Rockford IceHogs game. It wasn’t too chilly outside, but cold enough to warrant a winter hat. The IceHogs were playing the hated Milwaukee Admirals. It was also Rob Klinkhammer bobblehead night. Trouble is, Klinkhammer had been traded two weeks prior.
Little did I know that I’d see him on a line with Evgeni Malkin just shy of three years later.
Klinkhammer started his professional career in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals and eventually made his way to Rockford with the IceHogs. He’d make his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks via call up on December 10th, 2010 against the Dallas Stars. Klinkhammer signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks that summer, joining a group of promising prospects waiting to crack the logjam of offensive talent in Chicago.
Despite signing that one-year deal just months prior, the Blackhawks traded Klinkhammer to the Ottawa Senators on December 2nd, 2011 for a seventh-round draft pick. He spent most of his time with the Binghamton Senators, but saw 15 NHL games with Ottawa.
Once again, despite being labeled as “one of our best players” by former Senators head coach Paul MacLean, Klinkhammer hit this 2012 free agent market. He found work the Arizona Coyotes in just 72 hours.
In his time with Coyotes, Klinkhammer scored his first NHL goal, along with 18 others in 113 games, totaling 34 points. Three of those goals game in his first 19 games with Arizona this season. Apparently, that was enough for Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford to pick up the phone and make a deal.
With injuries to four important pieces to the Penguins top-six, Rutherford needed to make a low-risk move that would still make a big enough impact. With a 6′ 3″ frame, impact was the title of Klinkhammer’s resume. Seeing him net his first goal in a Penguins sweater only took three games. Putting up the insurance goal to secure a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames isn’t a bad footnote either.
If you would have told me on the night of December 17th as I checked my bobblehead in Rockford that I’d see Klinkhammer scoring on behalf of the Penguins, I’d say you were crazy. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s just another notch in Klinkhammer’s belt. From reassignments, call-ups, trades and free agency, he’s had quite the journey to get where he is today.
Hopefully he can keep putting down the hammer with the Pittsburgh Penguins.