Busy Friday led up to Hawks convention

July, 16, 2011
7/16/11
5:54
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
It was a busy opening day to the annual Chicago Blackhawks convention on Friday. Even before opening ceremonies late in the afternoon, the Hawks were making news. Here’s a wrap up of the day’s events and their implications:

Blackhawks sign Frolik, Lepisto: The Blackhawks released a statement they had signed forward Michael Frolik to a three-year contract and defenseman Sami Lepisto to a one-year deal.

“It wasn’t done before I was on the plane,” Frolik said. “When I landed, I got a call from my agent with an offer and we liked it. I’m happy it’s done and I can enjoy the weekend here. I’m excited to be here.”

At first look, the Hawks might have given Frolik (three years, $7 million) a tad more than he needed to be paid, especially for a player on the outside of the top six forwards. The Hawks nearly tripled his salary, and without arbitration rights he had no leverage except to sit out or play in Europe.

Michael Frolik
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesMichael Frolik agreed to a three-year deal with the Blackhawks on Friday.
“My first mindset is to play in the best league,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about Europe. I was hoping we could make a deal.”

The Hawks have shown if they like a player, they’ll take care of him. Frolik is now closer to being a core guy than anyone may have thought.

“Michael is an important part of the team,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “We expect him to be part of our group for a while. We talked about different deals, one-year, two-year or three. But in the long run, he’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here.”

Frolik’s new contract is as much a result of his stellar play in the seven-game postseason against the Vancouver Canucks as in his 28 regular season games with the Blackhawks after coming over in a trade with Florida. He underwhelmed at first, but came on strong late. That’s the play the Hawks are counting on when he most likely returns to his role as a third-line winger and sometime center.

The Lepisto signing was a surprise and had implications later in the day.

Blackhawks announce Kane will have wrist surgery: The Hawks released a statement from team doctor Michael Terry explaining why Patrick Kane is having surgery on his left wrist. His recovery time is 6-8 weeks, which puts him ready just in time for training camp, if there are no setbacks.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville revealed Kane hurt the wrist in the second-to-last game of the regular season, but it was only sore at the time. His wrist wasn’t mentioned in any postseason wrap-up sessions with the media, and only Kane knows why he didn’t take care of it at the time. But then again, if it got worse throughout the offseason there isn’t much he could have done and he seemed genuinely surprised he needed surgery.

Bottom line, whenever he got it fixed it would have affected his offseason. As long as he’s ready for training camp it’s hard to be too critical, considering it was an injury in flux. It got worse as the summer wore on, according to Kane.

Bowman says Campoli won’t return to Hawks: Bowman revealed that the Hawks had come to an impasse with Chris Campoli and he wouldn’t be returning, a likely reason for the Lepisto signing.

The sides were on different pages when it came to a new salary.

“We kind of indicated this to Chris at the beginning,” Bowman said. “’You may want more from us, and it’s really about fitting in with our structure. On our team, with the guys we already have signed, we need somebody in the certain price range for that role.”

There is always a guy or two who doesn’t feel like a priority. Last summer it was Antti Niemi, and Campoli must feel the same way.

When the Hawks traded Brian Campbell, then traded for and signed Steve Montador to a mega-deal, Campoli must have been thinking his stock was going up. After all, he was a puck-moving defenseman and the Hawks just lost one. And though Montador is older, he doesn’t have that much more on his resume than Campoli. But the Hawks saw it differently. They obviously value Montador and even Frolik more than Campoli. Those players got paid, and maybe overpaid.

By saying goodbye to Campoli even before his arbitration hearing, they’re telling him they weren’t even willing to pay him market value or close to it. In the same vein as Niemi, even if the Hawks “won” in arbitration, they still didn’t want to pay someone that figure who they undoubtedly feel is a fifth or sixth defenseman.

Moving forward, the Hawks have overhauled their defense in a big way since the beginning of last season. Last summer, they only moved out one player -- Brent Sopel -- while keeping the core of the Stanley Cup blueline together. Now, just three players -- Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson -- remain. The newcomers this offseason are slower and older, though Lepisto brings some of what Campbell and Campoli did. The Hawks have invested a lot in both Montador and Hjalmarsson, so increased performances out of both players is needed and expected, and Nick Leddy also needs to take a big step.

The Hawks value their blue line more than any other position on the ice. Assuming Keith and Seabrook return to a high level of play, how the newcomers perform on defense will go a long way toward determining how special this team is. Right now, they aren’t much different than a few seasons ago. There is plenty of potential, but plenty of questions to be answered with so many new faces taking on key roles.

Blackhawks convention gets underway: Jim Cornelison sang the national anthem, Eddie Olcysck introduced present and former players and the fourth annual Blackhawks convention began.

But not before a busy news day came to an end.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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