Thursday, May 19, 2011
Sizing up Blackhawks' free agents
By Jesse Rogers
It’s a longer than hoped for offseason for the Chicago Blackhawks which means plenty of time to figure out what kind of a summer it will be for the still-defending Stanley Cup champions. First up is addressing the Hawks’ restricted and unrestricted free agents. Negotiations with agents haven’t started yet. Expect that to heat up as the calendar turns to June.
The Hawks have six unrestricted free agents and five restricted. Between now and July 1 they have exclusive negotiating rights with those players. After July 1, any team can talk to and sign an unrestricted free agent while teams are allowed to make offers to the restricted ones. The Hawks have the right to match any restricted offer -- as they did last summer with Niklas Hjalmarsson -- but if they choose not to, they get a compensation package in the form of draft picks in exchange for the player.
With unrestricted free agents, it’s a simple process. The Hawks and the player will either work out a deal before July 1 or the player will get to test the market after July 1 but still have the ability to re-sign with Chicago.
The first step in dealing with restricted free agents is to give them a qualifying offer. This offer gives the player a minimal raise, based on a formula, while locking them into a contract for one year if the two sides can’t negotiate a longer term deal. Those offers have to be submitted to the players by June 27.
If the Hawks do not qualify a player, like they did not with defenseman Jordan Hendry a year ago, then that player becomes an unrestricted free agent but can still sign back with Chicago as Hendry did. Most players get qualifying offers; Hendry was the one exception last offseason.
Here’s a look at the 11 free agent Blackhawks and their chances of being back with the team:
This number may have been lower before the playoffs, but Frolik proved his potential at both ends of the ice. Assumed to be only a top 6 forward when acquired from Florida, Frolik showed he can play the third line as well. Expect a short, multi-year deal for the winger/center.
Campoli proved a solid pick-up at the trade deadline and fits the Hawks system like a glove. His negotiations could be tricky. The Hawks have loads of money tied up in their defense and anything more than a slight raise off his $1.4 million contract probably isn’t in the offing. He is arbitration eligible and a one-year deal based on an arbitrator’s decision is always a possibility if the sides can’t agree on a salary. He missed being an unrestricted free agent this year by 10 days. He will be next summer if he signs for only one year. If things don’t go right monetarily, the Hawks could always trade him.
Also a candidate to be traded but barring a move, he should be back while trying to find his complete game. He showed flashes but not enough to know for certain he’ll be a long-term contributor. His salary shouldn’t be a major stumbling block to what the Hawks want to accomplish this offseason.
At first thought this number might be too low considering how much Johnson helped out this season but his stock rose not just in Chicago but around the NHL. As an unrestricted veteran negotiating with a cap-strapped team, he will likely test the market. He might only get a few hundred thousand more but it might be enough for him to move on. Then again, he might be happy getting a deal sooner rather than later since he had to wait until this past season started before signing. It’s not known if he’s even in the Hawks’ plans, though considering their lack of depth at center, it would be a surprise if he wasn’t.
The Hawks won’t let him walk but his percentage isn’t higher because he is one of the most likely players to be moved in a trade. His ability to play all four lines is an asset, but with the emergence of Ben Smith and prospects Jeremy Morin and Marcus Kruger, it could get crowded among the top forwards. And the Hawks won’t want to pay him bigger bucks to be a third- or even fourth-line player. His size also gives him a reason to stay but his overall quiet career to this point might say otherwise. Tough call.
Jordan Hendry, D, Unrestricted: 50 percent
Coming off knee surgery and entering free agency isn’t the way any player wants to deal with a new contract. The Hawks didn’t qualify him last season, but he signed back with the club so there isn’t anything to say they don’t bring him back at the minimum again. They’re still thin at the blue line after their top 6, so Hendry could be valuable as a player that knows the system.
Remember, 35 percent means not likely but still leaves a lot of room for a return. It all comes down to salary. The Hawks will undoubtedly want to pay him like a bottom 6 forward though he put up career numbers. He is one guy that will play with an edge, but he is basically a 20- to 25-point player. If he’s willing to make less than the $1.2 million he made the last couple years the Hawks would probably be interested, especially considering his close friendship with Marian Hossa. He most likely will test the market before there is any thought of re-signing with the Hawks, if they want him back.
This number would be lower if not for the fact he is their property and plays center. Dowell had a decent first half but never played with the edge the Hawks needed on the fourth line, and then he lost his scoring touch. His willingness to drop the gloves is an asset, but with the additions of Ryan Johnson and Kruger plus Frolik’s ability to play center, his usefulness dropped as the season went on. Like Hendry a year ago, there is a good chance the Hawks will not give Dowell a “qualifying offer,” making him an unrestricted free agent.
He played for the minimum so it’s not like they have to give him a raise if they want to keep him. But he had a less than an impactful season, and there are players coming through the system who could easily take his place on the roster. The only scenario in which he returns is if the Hawks just need an extra veteran body.
A great teammate and mentor for Crawford is as good a reason as any to bring Turco back, but he would have to play for the minimum and know that he’s the back-up. The Hawks are probably moving on anyway as they will look for a bigger goalie, having had their troubles with smaller ones over the past two seasons.