Blackhawks’ RFA Updates and Line Predictions

Posted on July 18, 2011

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The 'Hawks look to bring back the Cup next season

Photo courtesy of: Ifpress.com

Written by: Stevie Volchek

Roughly one week ago, the ‘Hawks locked up their first Restricted Free Agent, Viktor Stalberg. The Blackhawks and Stalberg agreed on a two-year deal, worth roughly $1.75 mil according to a source. Stalberg displayed flashes of being capable to be able to play on the first line with the two young stars in Kane and Toews, but also showed flashes of being able to play on the fourth line just as well. Like former ‘Hawk Troy Brouwer, Stalberg’s line role fluctuated. Whether it was on the first line or on the fourth line, he brought a little bit of grit and physicality, and utilized his speed to his advantage. Stalberg is likely nothing more than a 25-30 point guy, but that will certainly be useful to the ‘Hawks if he’s a fourth liner. His price tag wasn’t steep, and the ‘Hawks now have a little more depth at the wing position.

Just three days ago (July 15th), the ‘Hawks finalized a deal with the up-and-coming potential core piece Michael Frolik on a three-year, $7 million dollar deal. Frolik, who scored over 20 goals and 40 points in his first two seasons with the Panthers got off to a rough start with the ‘Hawks and didn’t tally his first point until the tenth game playing for his new team. He finished the regular season with some promise, but stats don’t tell the whole story, as he finished with a mere 3 goals and 6 assists in just under 30 games. In the playoffs, however, Frolik was a big piece for the  ‘Hawks in their quest towards upsetting the top-seed Vancouver Canucks, whom they beat in two straight years. Frolik scored 2 goals and added 3 assists in those seven games, and was most known for his big penalty-shot goal in Game 6 to give his team the equalizer in the early part of the third period. Frolik showed hustle, determination, will, and had some nifty moves on his own. He’s still only 23-years-old, and he has plenty of time to expand upon his game. This was a very good signing for the ‘Hawks, and he’ll hopefully grow to become a core piece to the puzzle.

Friday afternoon, the ‘Hawks decided to end conversations with defense-man Chris Campoli, and will allow him to walk. The ‘Hawks have two options here: The first is to trade him, and the second is to walk away from his arbitration award and let him become an unrestricted free agent. Campoli did a solid job with the ‘Hawks in the second half of the season after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators, but ‘Hawks fans will remember him for his blunder in Game 7 that led to the Alexander Burrows’ game-winning goal that ended the ‘Hawks run. It was very unfortunate, but one man cannot be blamed for the misfortunes. GM Stan Bowman didn’t signify what the ‘Hawks plan to do with Campoli, but he did say that “It was apparent from the beginning their salary demands were just not in concert with where we see him fitting in our team”, meaning that the ‘Hawks and Campoli weren’t seeing eye-to-eye from the get-go. What does his loss signify? Well, the ‘Hawks lose a puck-moving defense-man who can play up-tempo and at times lead the attack, similar to the role that Brian Campbell had with the team.

But the ‘Hawks did add defensive insurance, adding former Columbus Blue Jackets defense-man Sami Lepisto to a one-year deal. It’s uncertain what role Lepisto will have with the team, but chances  it won’t be big one. He could serve as an insurance defense-man, or perhaps play on the third-pairing. Lepisto was added the day the ‘Hawks re-signed Frolik, which was before the announcement of Campoli not coming back, so perhaps it was a foreshadow.

If I were to guess the opening day lineup of the ‘Hawks, it would look something like this:

Front lines:

Brunette – Toews – Kane

Frolik  – Sharp – Hossa

Bickell – Bolland – Smith

Stalberg – Kruger – Mayers

Defense:

Keith – Seabrook

Hjalmarsson – Montador

Leddy – O’Donnell

Keep in mind, the piece the Blackhawks got from the Campbell deal, Rostislav Olesz, is an X-factor. His ACL injury that derailed him last season is something to look out for, and there hasn’t been much talk about him. If he turns out to be a second/third liner, this completely overturns the pairings I have projected. Hopefully, he shows the team that he really is worth the top-ten pick that the Panthers invested back in 2004. He has potential, but will it be displayed? Hopefully, injuries don’t get in the way.

As always, time will tell. Until then, the off season is in full stride with the 2011-2012 season just around the corner.

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Posted in: Hockey