A Review Of The ‘Hawks FA

Posted on July 8, 2011

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7 and out

Photo courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

Written by: Stevie Volchek

Before the NHL Draft began on June 24th, there were some grumblings that day that Brian Campbell could be on his way out. Amongst the swirling rumors was that he rejected to waive his no-trade clause in a deal that would have sent him to the rival Columbus Blue Jackets. Those rumors were shortly after put to rest, and a sigh was let off by ‘Hawks fans around the country. Then, shortly before the ‘Hawks made their first draft pick of the day, rumors again began to surface, and this time, it was to the familiar trade partners, the Florida Panthers. Versus network showed Stan Bowman on his phone and talking to the agent of Brian Campbell, so perhaps indeed these rumors were becoming truer, and truer as the draft went on. Then it became official. The Chicago Blackhawks sent Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Rostislav Olesz.

At the time, I was sitting at a local sports bar, and when the deal was announced, the ‘Hawks fans began to jump with joy. Not only was Brian Campbell not living up to expectations for his whopping contract, but the ‘Hawks no longer had their hands tied behind their backs, and were now able to re-sign their own RFA’s while spending in FA for other needs.

But trade talks weren’t done. Shortly before the Brian Campbell deal was announced, the ‘Hawks announced that they had traded the rights to Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for their first-round pick in the draft. Troy was a very good club-house team-mate and a talented player, but unfortunately couldn’t find his role with the ‘Hawks with all the shuffling that occurred throughout the season. At times, he was paired up on the top line with Toews and Kane, and at times he played on the fourth line. He wasn’t able to find consistency with this team. Hopefully, he’ll be able to find a role that is suitable for him in Washington and thrives.

Tomas Kopecky was the other ‘Hawk that was dealt. He was dealt to a once again familiar tea, the Florida Blackhawks…erm, Florida Panthers, days before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Kopecky was a gritty player on the ‘Hawks. He generally played on the third line, but at times played on the second line with his good friend Marian Hossa. What the ‘Hawks got out of the deal was a 2012 pick, conditional to Nashville, and if that pick isn’t available, Chicago would receive the Panthers 2013 seventh-round pick.

On July 1st, the ‘Hawks were able to strike deals with five veteran players, all for one-year contracts: Sean O’Donnell, Brett McLean, Jamal Mayers, Andrew Brunette, and Dan Carcillo. Combine the salaries of all five players for next year, and you aren’t even at $5 million. The current total, $4,705,000 could be even less if Brett McLean doesn’t play in the NHL as he was signed to a two-way contract.

With the above signings, the ‘Hawks added grit, defense, lots of physicality, toughness, maturity, and leadership. All those characteristics were missing in last season’s playoff series against the Canucks, as it seemed that the ‘Hawks were bullied on the ice, and tossed around like dolls. Aside from Andrew Brunette, you won’t see much scoring from these guys, but scoring isn’t a problem with the ‘Hawks as they ranked in the top five in goals, goals per game, and shots on goal.

Offense wasn’t the problem, defense was, especially the penalty killing. The ‘Hawks were 24th in the league in PK, after being 4th in the league the year before. The ‘Hawks knew that they had to come in and improve the penalty-kill situation, and they did so by adding depth and players who are able to kill penalties.

But none of those guys were even the biggest signing of them all. Steve Montador, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres two days before Free Agency began was signed to a 4-year $11 mil dollar contract. Montador is a very good puck-mover who blocks a lot of shots as well as getting plenty of time on the penalty-kill. He will be a very good second or third line defensive pairing, and will at times be able to chip in offensively as well.

So, what’s next for the ‘Hawks?

Michael Frolik, Chris Campoli, and Viktor Stalberg remain un-signed. Campoli and Stalberg have filed for arbitration, and if I was a betting man on who is most likely to not come back next season, it is Chris Campoli. Most remember him for his blunder in Game 7 against the Canucks that led to the Alexander Burrows’ game-winning goal, but he’s still a very serviceable defense-man. Frolik showed that he had what it takes to succeed with the ‘Hawks, and his hustle on the ice showed that he could be a game-changer. After scoring 20 goals two of the past three years, he’s certainly going to earn a pay-raise, and hopefully, it’s from the ‘Hawks. Viktor Stalberg is another depth winger who can at times provide offense, but also isn’t afraid to lay down a big hit. He’ll be the cheapest of the three, and I’m assuming he’ll have no problems re-signing.

The ‘Hawks would like to add a center, but unfortunately, after Brad Richards there is a huge drop-off. Chances are, if the ‘Hawks do land a center, it’ll be via trade. Perhaps the ‘Hawks choose to bring in a back-up goalie as well to provide competition for young goalie Alexander Salak.

The ‘Hawks currently have just over $7 mil in cap space according to CapGeek, but assuming the current RFA’s get re-signed, we won’t have too much cap space.

The ‘Hawks made out like winners this off-season. Trading Campbell in itself is worthy of a good grade, but adding depth and filling in crucial needs to the team gives the ‘Hawks the A they deserve. However, only time will tell.

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Posted in: Hockey