Chicago Blackhawks: Chris Campoli

Pressure on Bowman to hit a home run

February, 24, 2012
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Stan BowmanJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAs the trade deadline approaches, Stan Bowman could be busy this weekend.

The culmination of something that started on June 24, 2011, will take place between now and Monday at 2 p.m. CST. That’s when NHL teams are no longer allowed to trade players and the real playoff push begins. The players a team has in the organization, at that point, are essentially what they’ll go to the playoffs with.

The Chicago Blackhawks traded defenseman Brian Campbell on that day in June, finally releasing themselves from the salary cap stranglehold that had plagued them since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. General manager Stan Bowman did not instantly spend the money he saved on Campbell. He indicated there would be a time for that.

“Everyone puts their team together in the summer and everyone is excited about how their team is going to play out and then probably by the second week of the year there are lots of teams who realize ... it just didn’t work out,” Bowman said following the trade of Campbell back in June. “And at that point you want to have some flexibility.”

We’re at that point. The Hawks are not an elite team right now. They sit 8-12 points behind the top teams in the Western Conference. Despite a nice run of four wins out of five, no one can be completely convinced they can play defense well enough to win a championship. They didn’t spend then so they could spend now, but it hasn’t happened yet.

“You saw our cap situation over the last couple years and that’s how it’s going to be for a while,” Bowman explained in June. “We have some really good players signed to big tickets and we’re always looking to the future. Obviously, Brian’s contract was one of the largest ones on the books for us. In our team structure the contract made it very difficult.”

Money isn’t the issue, and neither is a lack of viable trade commodities. The Hawks are rated as one of the better organizations in terms of prospects. They’re not slim on draft picks to trade either.

So Bowman has little time to act on a struggling power play, an offense which is short a top-six forward and, of course, a defense that is employing a 20- and 21-year-old on its top two pairs right now. Yes, injuries have played a part, but the Hawks weren’t playing great defense when all were healthy. They’ve languished near the bottom of the league all season in most defensive categories, including the penalty kill which, is just now getting better.

Simply put, if Bowman can upgrade any of those areas, he’ll go a long way toward making the Hawks a real Stanley Cup contender. So far, he’s either been beat to players he likes or has chosen to sit out while many contenders fortify their rosters.

Kyle Quincey, Hal Gill, Nicklas Grossman and Jeff Carter are just a few of the names that could have helped. Not everyone is going to be a perfect fit, but at this rate slight upgrades in certain areas are better than nothing. Is Bowman lying in the weeds for something big or is he just scrambling to get something done? The good news for Hawks’ fans is most of their past trades were negotiated very quietly. Chris Campoli, Nick Leddy and even Nick Boynton were acquired without much fanfare around the deadline. Of course, those weren’t big names anyway. The Hawks have the wherewithal to get a bigger one this time around.

Sources indicate they have interest in Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky, who would instantly help a power play that is 0 for its last 33. They need a shooter or a pilot on the blue line thus Visnovsky fits, although he has a salary cap hit of $5.6 million through next season. And it will cost the Hawks a good prospect. But that’s the price of trying to win a Stanley Cup.

There are others who could be available, including Campoli for a second straight year. Though Dallas might be a buyer after its win on Thursday, there is interest in Adam Burish around the league. The problem is anyone the Hawks are interested in -- like Grossman or Quincey -- will have other suitors as well. And now that the Los Angeles Kings have traded a defenseman, they’re in the market to get one. Bowman has competition everywhere he turns. He might have the means to get a deal done, but, apparently, so do a lot of other teams.

Bowman didn’t like the free-agent class of centers this past summer once Brad Richards came off the board, so he held onto his money and said he would be spend it when he needed to. Several weeks ago, he said there was a logjam in the trade market, but that has long since opened up. The time for talk is finally over. The team needs help and fans want to see their general manager do everything he can to improve the club, which has fallen from the elite. In this case, trying won’t be enough, though. Not when Detroit, Nashville and Los Angeles have tried and succeeded. Bowman has to hit a homerun -- or come close to it.

The one move Chicago made -- acquiring Brendan Morrison from Calgary -- hasn’t worked out. So what, if anything, is going to happen? If they don’t even get one depth defenseman it will be a shock to Hawks’ observers. Even if years with a better blue line the Hawks have fortified the position. But will the player or players they pick up be the right ones to help take the team to another level? When a team has so many potential needs, helping one area out shouldn’t be that hard, should it?

Up until this moment, the only assessment of Bowman that can be made is that he’s been beat by other quality teams to some decent players. By Monday at 2:01 p.m., we’ll know the whole story. Until then, one thing is for sure, Stan Bowman is going to have a very busy weekend -- or at least, he needs to.

Campoli fondly remembers time as a Hawk

December, 21, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- We’ll never know what the Chicago Blackhawks blue-line could have been if former Hawk and current Montreal Canadian Chris Campoli had re-signed in the offseason as he expected to do.

[+] EnlargeChris Campoli
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesChris Campol was hopeful he would stay in Chicago, but the Hawks thought otherwise.

Campoli, in town to face the Hawks and only playing in his sixth game this season due to an injury, ended up being let go after a salary dispute last summer.

“It’s kind of unique how it happened because it doesn’t happen often that way,” Campoli said about leaving as a restricted free agent. “The business sides of things is sometimes unfortunate. I have nothing but good things to say about the organization. It didn’t work out financially but it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Campoli didn’t get into specifics but it was believed at the time when the Hawks signed Steve Montador to a four-year $11 million deal, it helped set the market for Campoli -- he certainly subscribed to that line of thinking.

“Steve did great,” Campoli said. “That’s the market place. Good for him. I was happy for him. Steve is a friend of mine.”

Campoli is five years younger than Montador, but the two have different skill sets. Still, Campoli fit in with the Hawks puck possession, skating style. In fact, it’s his strength.

“I thought I fit in well while I was here,” he said. “It was a great experience for me. That’s all I can really say about it.”

Add Campoli to the current unit on the blue-line and the Hawks would have less money to spend in-season, but they might have less of a need to spend it. Joel Quenneville has rotated his sixth defenseman all year and Campoli would have undoubtedly solidified that last pair. The Hawks expected it to happen and so did Campoli but it never materialized. The Hawks would have employed one of the most expensive blue-lines in the game.

Instead, Campoli’s lasting impression, as a Hawk, is his infamous give-away in overtime of Game 7 of last year’s playoff series with Vancouver. Alex Burrows scored the winning goal after Campoli wasn’t able to clear the zone as Burrows knocked down his clearing attempt.

“It was something that happened,” Campoli said Wednesday. “It’s something I’ll learn from. It won’t be the last mistake. As a professional you deal with things throughout your career. Unfortunately I made a mistake at a real critical time. I’ve put it behind me.”

It doesn’t mean Campoli hasn’t thought about it.

“If I could do something different I probably would have used the glass,” he explained. “Physical errors are something that happens in the game. It was unfortunate.”

Campoli faced the media about the play that night and again on Wednesday, the only difference is now he plays for Montreal.

Busy Friday led up to Hawks convention

July, 16, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
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.

Chris Campoli won't be a Blackhawk

July, 15, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- Defenseman Chris Campoli won’t be back with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to general manager Stan Bowman.

Read the entire story.

Mailbag: Are the Hawks Cup contenders?

July, 14, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Time to empty the mailbag:

Q: With the additions the Hawks have made so far do you see them as a serious contender this year for Stanley Cup? -- Jim (Burbank, Ill.)

A:Yes, I do but I probably would have thought that unless they really just messed the whole roster up which they didn’t. I’m vanilla on those fourth-line guys but love Andrew Brunette so unless he’s just lost it he’s enough for me to like the offseason moves. Basically, I think there is enough character and talent getting a long summer to refuel the engines for next season to contend.

Q: I know rosters aren't set but let’s say we take care of Chris Campoli and Michael Frolik. List what you think the lines would be and why? -- Jon (California)

A: To start the season -- and that’s key to remember -- only to start but not necessarily to finish, I think it looks like this:

Patrick Sharp/Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane
Andrew Brunette/Dave Bolland/Marian Hossa
Ben Smith/Marcus Kruger/Michael Frolik
Bryan Bickell/Jamal Mayers/Dan Carcillo/Viktor Stalberg

Until we know more about Rastislav Olesz, I’ll make him the extra forward along with one of those fourth-line players. Bolland would move down to the third line and maybe Kruger up at some point or if Kruger can’t handle it maybe he moves down and Sharp moves to center eventually. But to start the season, I think it looks something like that with Olesz as the X factor, barring any roster trimmings. I just think they like Kruger a lot and want to give him a shot while Sharp is better at wing. Bolland deserves a real chance in an offensive role since we know what he can do in a defensive one.

[+] EnlargeViktor Stalberg
Jamie Sabau/NHLI/Getty ImagesViktor Stalberg still has something to prove to Joel Quenneville.
Q: So with a variety of options now available for fourth-line wingers what with Carcillo, Mayers, Stalberg, John Scott, who do you think is likely to get the most playing time? Any chance they use Stalberg in the top six again occasionally like they did last season? He was serviceable there, though not great by any means. --Jen (Rockford, Ill.)

A: Yes, I think Stalberg might get a look in the top six here and there but not often unless there is an injury. Scott will work on defense to start the season so Stalberg, Mayers, Bryan Bickell and Carcillo seem your best options, at least at the outset. Again I’m not sure where Olesz fits in but let’s assume it’s not on the fourth line. In my opinion I think Stalberg and Bickell still have something to prove to Joel Quenneville.

Q: Should the Hawks try to play Scott on the power play during training camp and the preseason and use him as a screen and maybe he could get some garbage goals we so desperately need? -- John (Vernon Hills, Ill.)

A: I don’t see why not. It's training camp. I know Quenneville likes him on the ice, and he wouldn’t be the first big guy to stand there as long as he can show some hands, which he hasn’t to this point. The power play has some openings with the loss of Brouwer and even Tomas Kopecky as well as Brian Campbell. I do think Brunette will end up being the guy in front of the net as well.

Q: Jesse, you're doing a great job, pal. So, do you feel Jimmy Hayes has a legitimate shot at a fourth-line spot out of camp? He seemed like a man amongst boys at prospects camp. -- Peter (South Side)

A: No way, but I always leave a “but” in case Quenneville or another bigwig really falls for a guy. I think that was Kruger at last year's prospect’s camp so you never know. But the numbers just aren’t there. Now, they could open a spot for him by trade or other means, but right now I’m sure he needs some seasoning in Rockford.

Q: Can we finally silence the notion of Bolland moving up to center line two after Bowman's comments about Sharp being a viable option in the middle? I love Bolland, and I do think he is better offensively than most third-line centers in the league, but his ability to get in the heads and the way of the oppositions top forwards is far more valuable than that. -- Luke (Deerfield, Ill.)

A: I think we have to be careful in taking someone’s comments as an absolute. I wrote earlier that I believe Sharp will start at wing but can always move to center. Bolland was coming on offensively before his concussion last season. I think they play with that for a while on the second line while they develop Kruger. It doesn’t mean Bolland and Hossa will never face other top lines, but it will be as the second line. Then come playoffs, Bolland probably goes into lockdown mode.

Q: Do you think Kyle Beach has a chance to make the team this fall? -- Steve S. (Kenosha, Wis.)

A: No, but there is always a chance he has the camp of his life. Bowman indicated recently he needs to round out his game, and they’ve brought in some guys on one-year deals that would play his role so one more year in Rockford is probably his destination for this season. Then he gets a big chance next season if he’s still with the club, etc.

Q: Can you give us your top five prospects based on the camp this past weekend? (Based on being close to NHL-ready). -- Keith (Waupaca, Wis.)

A: That’s a tough one because as Bowman put it, this was more of a “developmental” camp as opposed to an “evaluation” one, but I guess I can do the evaluating. One caveat: I wasn’t there every day, but I would say Jimmy Hayes is getting there. I liked Dylan Olsen going back to last season. He’s closer. Mark McNeill, Brandon Saad and Phillip Danault all impressed me. Danault might be the sleeper of the group, if a first-round pick can be.

Q: I know Gary Bettman is on a mission to destroy the NHL, but how can he possibly consider moving Detroit to the East? Not only would he split up the Hawks and Wings, but five of the Original Six would be in one conference. So long to Original Six games for half the hockey fans on the planet. All this so Detroit fans can be tucked in at a decent hour? Come on. He can't be that clueless. -- Adam (Chicago)

A: As long as they don’t move Vancouver to the East I think things will be OK. I would bet more and more fans couldn’t name the Original Six teams if you spotted them half the teams. Yes, the Hawks and Wings rivalry is still great, but I’m not totally opposed to change. If you’re a Wings or Blue Jackets fan, those West Coast games are starting at 10 or 10:30 p.m. Hawks fans would go nuts if that was the case here, so I can understand why they want to move and why they might be accommodated.

[+] EnlargeChris Campoli
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesChris Campoli had four goals and 17 assists for the Hawks.
Q: Where do the Hawks go if they can't come to terms with Campoli? Without him and Campbell they really lose that advantage of having some defensemen to move the puck. Also provided Frolik returns, do you see him playing wing or center? He showed some signs of playing a center roll well, but played even better as a winger with Bolland in the last four games of the playoffs. -- Alex O. (Chicago)

A: It’s a very good point about Campoli. Maybe his camp knows the Hawks need him even more now and are looking to use that leverage. I agree that Campbell/Campoli exchanged for Montador/O’Donnell (he’s next in line) would affect their transition game more than anyone would want. They would absolutely have to bring in another defenseman, but it’s starting to get later in the summer and it will certainly be late by the time his arbitration hearing is here. Not sure what they would do to be honest. I still don’t think we’re there yet though.

Q: With the recent acquisitions, I have been trying to figure out who is going to be the "odd man out". Olesz (if healthy) will his contract be bought out Aug. 1? Kruger, Smith? Leaves very little chance for any of the boys in camp to make the team right? (i.e. Beach, Morin, LaLonde, McNeill). Johnny B. (Jakarta, Indonesia)

A: The Hawks have made no indication they are doing anything with Olesz except bringing him to camp. Maybe that will change, but they haven’t even wavered for one minute on that thought. You make it sound like it’s a bad thing if Morin or any of these guys don’t make the team. Smith and Kruger are good players. I’d want the best 23 to make the team, so if that includes Lalonde or anyone else, great. The competition in camp will decide that. Guys can be traded or sent to the minors to make room for others so on paper anything is possible. But it is a longer shot for any of them to make it.

Q: At what number do you think the Hawks would walk away from Campoli after the arbitration hearing? And even if the number were higher than the Hawks hope, with the cap space available, wouldn't it be better to lock him in for a one-year deal and move him later? -- Erik (San Francisco)

A: I’m guessing $3 million is definitely too much, but I doubt he’d get that. Hard to say what that number would be, but you bring up a good point. This time I think they will keep him either way. They don’t have to trade him. Let him play the year and try to work something out or wait until next offseason or move him as you say. I think that was the point Bowman was trying to make to me recently when he said Campoli was different than Antti Niemi. Niemi, they simply had to let go, but Campoli they can keep and save in other ways or work around it.

Q: Why have the Hawks not addressed their need for a second-line center? Bolland is not the answer there (great third line/playoff guy) and neither is Kruger. Is there anyone out there that they are considering? -- Mike (Chicago)

A: It doesn’t sound like they are considering anyone right now. I haven’t heard of anything new on the trade or free agency front. You may not agree with the thinking but it’s pretty simple: the Hawks felt there was no one they wanted at the price that was out there. They didn’t want to overpay or give extra years when they feel their system is on the verge of producing centers. It makes sense if you believe they might have enough for this year come playoff time and those prospects are for real. Plus, they should have a few bucks to spend near the trade deadline if it becomes a major issue.

Q: Where's the buzz on Morin? I thought he showed a lot of skill in the limited time he had with the Hawks. -- Mike D. (Naperville, Ill.)

A: I still think he’s a good prospect but with Smith and Kruger there, he isn’t getting as much attention. If I’m him, I like that. The coaches will notice if he should be here. I suspect he’s first up from Rockford if he doesn’t make the team which I don’t see happening but camp will decide all that of course.

Q: Let's talk defense. What do you think the defensive pairings will look like next season with or without Campoli? I'm having a hard time seeing where Nick Leddy fits in with the acquisition of O'Donnell and Montador. Is he trade bait? -- Josh

A: I believe the Hawks when they say they want big numbers on defense or have players ready to come up from Rockford so I definitely do not see a trade. I think they will mix and match based on who is playing well. Opening night I see O’Donnell as the odd man out, but that’s just an educated guess. I see Keith and Seabrook paired along with Hjalmarsson and Campoli with Montador and Leddy the third pair but that bottom four could be jumbled. Hard to know right now. I know they liked Campoli with another puck mover like Brian Campbell so maybe he is paired with Leddy and they go Montador and Hjalmarsson. I could see that as well.

GM: Campoli talks different than Niemi

July, 13, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks and defenseman Chris Campoli have a date for arbitration on Aug. 3 but the sides continue to work toward avoiding it.

It's the same scenario that played out last summer when former Hawk Antti Niemi and the club could not strike a deal before an arbiter awarded Niemi $2.75 million. The Hawks said no thanks and Niemi became a free agent, leaving the team after winning the Stanley Cup. The Hawks got nothing for him.

Is general manager Stan Bowman more willing to explore a trade to avoid a similar fate with Campoli?

"Yeah, but we're not at that point yet," Bowman said Wednesday. "We still have a few weeks to go until the arbitration date. It's no different than any other player. There is a number they want, and there is a number we can afford. If they don't match they don't match. But we're not at that point yet."

Bowman does not believe Campoli's and Niemi's situations are similar.

"You can't compare the two situations," he said. "They were totally different, just because of what we went through last summer. We're not in that spot now."

Bowman re-iterated this is no different than most negotiations.

"We're working at it," Bowman said. "It takes two to make the deal. If we can come to an agreement we're going to get it done."

Campoli, Stalberg not guarantees to return

July, 8, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

News that the NHLPA has announced arbitration dates for Chicago Blackhawks Viktor Stalberg and Chris Campoli isn’t a surprise or very significant in and of itself.

What is noteworthy is when those hearings are scheduled, especially Campoli’s.

[+] EnlargeViktor Stalberg
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesViktor Stalberg could be buried on the depth chart due to the Hawks' depth at winger.

Stalberg will have his day with an arbiter on July 20. His case is pretty straightforward. He made a base salary of $785,000 in 2010-2011 and has produced 21 goals and 17 assists in 117 career games. He’s also minus-11 in his career, though he was plus-2 last season. He’s due a slight raise and the sides should come to an agreement before the hearing, unless Stalberg is hopeful to get a surprise award from an arbiter, giving him better than a slight raise.

He would have to be willing to play on a one–year deal, an arrangement most players don’t prefer. Or maybe he wants the Hawks to “walk away” from the decision making him an unrestricted free-agent. Afterall, the Hawks' depth chart is packed with wingers, and Stalberg is behind many of them. But that scenario is very risky. The NHL isn’t knocking the door down for Stalberg, and he’s at risk of getting low-ball offers, including two-way deals.

Campoli’s arbitration date isn’t until Aug. 3. That’s very late in the NHL offseason. If the Hawks turned down the decision, Campoli is an unrestricted free agent. For a player looking to make near $3 million, however, there may not be many takers. Or at least not many who look promising.

Most good teams have spent a lot of their salary cap by then, which leaves mediocre teams who will know Campoli is scrambling for a job. It’s not a pleasant scenario. And then there is the prospect of the Hawks accepting the decision and Campoli having to play under a one-year deal.

The one thing going in Campoli’s favor is the Hawks need him as much as he needs them. With the loss of Brian Campbell and addition of Steve Montador the Hawks lost something in their transition game. It’s not enough to dent their style significantly but the loss of another puck moving defenseman would be a blow. Sean O’Donnell taking Campoli’s place doesn’t scream “transition game.”

While arbitration gives players leverage, there are plenty of downsides. For an attractive destination and team like Chicago, it’s a dangerous game for player and agent to let the case go before an arbiter. Barring a trade of either player don’t expect it to get that far.

Restricted free agency challenging again

July, 5, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Is the news that Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Chris Campoli and winger Viktor Stalberg have filed for salary arbitration an indication that general manager Stan Bowman is having trouble signing his three restricted free agents?

[+] EnlargeChris Campoli
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesChris Campoli had four goals and 17 assists for the Hawks.
Campoli, Stalberg and Michael Frolik, who is not eligible for arbitration, have been available to be signed since the season ended but it’s now heading into the second week of July and they remain unsigned despite Bowman’s proclamations he expects them to return in “short order.”

There have been some indications that the timetable isn’t going as planned. Bowman said at the NHL draft in late June he was focusing on the draft and would turn his attention to his restricted free agents the next week. That was the week leading up to free agency so when July 1 came around and still his restricted free agents had not signed, Bowman again pushed things back.

This time he said he had been focused on the unrestricted free agents, five of whom signed with the Hawks on Friday. Bowman then said again he would focus on Stalberg, Campoli and Frolik.

In one day he signed five players he had no history with. It’s taken two and a half months and three of his own remain in limbo. Obviously, there are different circumstances involved. The restricted free agents can’t go anywhere, at least not yet. The unrestricted ones need to be gobbled up before someone else does, but
the question still stands, why is it taking so long?

And then comes the filing for arbitration by Campoli and Stalberg.

It doesn’t mean they will go to an arbiter -- only two Hawks have had a hearing since 2005-2006 -- but one of them was Antti Niemi last year. Niemi “won” his case and the Hawks refused to pay him, making him an unrestricted free agent. Before that, Niklas Hjalmarsson received a surprise offer sheet from San Jose which the Hawks had to match, paying Hjalmarsson millions more than they planned. On the eve of free agency a year ago Bowman infamously said he wasn’t “worried about offer sheets,” and then got burned.

So is restricted free agency Bowman’s kryptonite?

It’s a small sample size but between Hjalmarsson, Niemi and this year’s crop it’s obvious it hasn’t gone as smooth as the Hawks would have liked.

Again, timing is undoubtedly playing a part. Campoli’s side must be looking at Steve Montador’s deal and licking their chops. Montador signed a four-year, $11 million contract on Thursday. Word has it Campoli is looking to top that deal by asking for $3 million per season. He’s five years younger and just one year away from unrestricted free-agency while Montador was one day away. They’re different kinds of players but in the same salary structure. Montador made $1.5 million last season and Campoli made $1.4.

Cases that go to arbitration most often favor the player so if the Hawks had signed Campoli before they traded for Montador maybe they get a better rate. It’s similar to Hjalmarsson’s situation last summer. If signed before July 1, the Hawks pay Hjalmarsson much less. Waiting hurt, just as it might again.

Stalberg shouldn’t be as complicated. His base salary was $785,000 and has very little on his resume. Remember, the sides can negotiate all the way up until the arbitration hearing. It would be a shock if Stalberg’s case was actually heard by an arbiter.

The most interesting situation of the three could turn out to be Frolik. He’s not eligible for arbitration due to his service time and age but there are indications he’s asking for a huge raise. His base salary was $850,000 last year and Frolik is looking for close to $2.5 million. He’s a two-time 20-goal scorer but he had an off year in 2010-2011, netting just 11 goals in 80 games played between Florida and Chicago. He did come alive in the playoffs scoring twice while adding three assists in seven game and played stellar defense in a shut-down role. Still, with no leverage that would be a huge raise.

It’s one Frolik’s former general manager Dale Tallon would be more apt to agree to. When he was the GM of the Hawks, Tallon bypassed some “second” contracts for some former Hawks giving them “third” contract money. It helped put the Hawks in their nearly two-year salary cap crunch and, ironically, it helped facilitate trading some of those players.

The good news this time around is no offer sheets arrived for the Hawks restricted free agents, making it easier -- and cheaper -- to get them signed. But arbitration still provides leverage for the player and a potential headache for the Hawks.

Hawks' Campoli, Stalberg file for arbitration

July, 5, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks defenseman Chris Campoli and winger Viktor Stalberg filed for salary arbitration before Tuesday's deadline.

Read the entire story.

Bowman puts Hawks in good position

June, 25, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

ST.PAUL, Minn. -- Dramatic moves by Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman stole the headlines on Day 1 of the 2011 NHL draft.

Bowman dumped two salaries -- moving winger Troy Brouwer and defenseman Brian Campbell. In doing so, he shed close to $10 million in payroll for the Hawks -- that figure takes into account the raise Brouwer is due as a restricted free-agent who is arbitration eligible.

The Hawks will receive salary from Florida in return--Rostislav Olesz has a cap hit of $3.1 million for three more years--but they will no longer be handcuffed by Campbell’s gigantic deal.

Both moves were advantageous for Bowman and the Hawks; both players were underachievers for the salaries they were commanding or going to command. The fiscal flexibility allows the Hawks freed to make deals this offseason and beyond. They’ll need to replace Brouwer’s size but its more about being hard to play against than it is physical size. The Hawks know that and will attend to it.

[+] EnlargeCampbell
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesBrian Campbell's contract had been hamstringing the Hawks.

As for Campbell, he didn’t play on the first power-play unit, didn’t play on the penalty kill, didn’t play the tough minutes against the opposing team’s best players, and put up mediocre offensive numbers. His transition game was top notch, but it wasn’t worth $7.14 million per year. Not even close. Fortunately, Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers have to reach the salary cap “floor” of $48 million so taking on a big contract was as good for them as it was for the Hawks in shedding it.

Now Nick Leddy and Chris Campoli, when he’s re-signed, will move up a notch on the depth chart and don’t be surprised if John Scott has first crack at the No. 6 position on defense.

So what will the Hawks do with the extra money?

They will spend it on signing Patrick Sharp to an extension and filling out their fourth line with edgier players who can play the game as well. The Hawks know they missed that grit last season and now can address it without settling for minimum salaried players. If a center falls into their lap either via trade or free-agency they have the flexibility to be competitive in the bidding there as well.

Bottom line: The moves were good for hockey reasons and for monetary reasons. Yes, Brouwer showed flashes but as Bowman said Friday night “there comes a time when new faces have to get a chance.” Jeremy Morin is waiting in the wings and who doesn’t want to see if Ben Smith is the real deal coming off his end-of-season run?

It’s all about value. Brouwer and Campbell’s value is better to the Hawks on another roster. The Hawks do have to replace some of what they lost, but in a nutshell, they can do nearly what they want in the marketplace for the first time in a long time. With the adjusted salary figures the Hawks have 16 players signed at about $50 million. It leaves them plenty of room -- up to $14 million -- to sign six more players, including their own restricted free-agents. They’ll save some of that money for injuries and in-season moves but will have enough leftover to improve their team now.

They’re not ready for a Stanley Cup run just yet but the Hawks are better off today than they were yesterday. Can you ask your general manager for much more than that?

Hawks' Campoli has knee surgery

May, 4, 2011
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Chris Campoli underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus.

Campoli, who is expected to make a full recovery in two months, was acquired in a trade from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 28. He played in 19 games with the Hawks.

Crawford elicits awe in defeat

April, 27, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

VANCOUVER -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford left an indelible mark in the Game 7 overtime defeat to the Vancouver Canucks, 2-1.

Yes, he gave up two goals to Alex Burrows but it’s what he kept out of his net that impressed the hockey world. He was magnificent in stopping 36 shots.

“It was one of the greatest goaltending performances in a clutch situation you’re going to see,” Joel Quenneville said after the game. “The kid was great.”

As the Hawks pressed to tie the game they left their netminder on an island. He even stopped Burrows on a penalty shot in the third period to keep the score within one.

“He was a warrior out there,” Jonathan Toews said. “Everyone wants to talk about [Roberto] Luongo all the time and the superstars but for a rookie goaltender, he was amazing. I can’t say enough about him.”

Save after save Crawford would not relent. He gave up his first goal to Burrows 2:43 into the game and then shut down the Canucks for more than 62 minutes. In other words he pitched a regulation shutout but still came up short.

“He is the reason we were in the position we were in tonight,” Troy Brouwer simply stated about being in the game.

Crawford’s last moment of the season won’t be remembered as much as the moments that brought his team to a Game 7 overtime. If the Hawks were at all unsure of it, they found their goaltender of the future, despite losing four of the last seven games played. He was that good.

The winning goal

After the game Chris Campoli didn’t shy away from the negative attention. It was Campoli who’s clearing attempt landed in Burrows’ glove which he turned into the winning goal.

“I didn’t get it out,” Campoli said. “I didn’t get it over him [Burrows]. Those are the kind of turnovers you can’t have and it cost us the game.”

A stunned Crawford said he couldn’t “remember” much about the play.

“He took off for the slot and teed it up,” he said. “I don’t know if it went off our defenseman stick or not. Their guy made a great play.”

Campoli wore the mistake instead of giving credit to Burrows.

“I made the play, not him,” he said.

Power-less play

The Hawks desperately needed their power play to come through in the final game, but it came up short. There was no better chance than early in overtime in Game 7 when Duncan Keith was taken down. The Hawks already possessed the momentum off their shorthanded goal late in regulation but that didn’t carry over to the power play.

“I don’t think our power play was great tonight,” Keith bluntly stated.

There was one great look by Patrick Sharp which could have sent the Hawks home a winner. He set up for a back door try, as he has so often this year, but Robert Luongo made the game saving stop on the one-timer.

“He [Luongo] looked like he anticipated the play pretty well,” Quenneville noted. “[Sharp] needed a special shot but it was a good look. Probably the only one on that power play.”

That power play will haunt the Hawks all offseason. The attempt by Sharp also will be hard to forget.

Missing stars

The Hawks missed some key players in Game 7 though not because of injury. Patrick Kane led the group of no-shows eventually having to be taken off the top line after a seemingly disinterested night.

“What we didn’t do offensively led to us having to play more defense,” Quenneville said when asked about Kane.

Kane finished with four shots but simply didn’t have the puck enough, and when he did, there were few times a positive outcome occurred. Marian Hossa also had his rough moments in Game 7. It led to Quenneville giving young Marcus Kruger some critical shifts, among others.

The Quote: “I’m not going to be a sore loser. You have to show some respect for the team that beat you,” -Jonathan Toews on the Vancouver Canucks.

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Chris Campoli talks about the challenge the Hawks face being down 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks.

Despite loss, Hawks on right track

April, 14, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

VANCOUVER -- It’s probably for the best that only four members of the Chicago Blackhawks were available to the media on Thursday between Games 1 and 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal matchup with the Vancouver Canucks.

The Hawks didn’t hold a formal practice so Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrook, Chris Campoli, and Michael Frolik were left to answer questions about the Game 1 loss and what’s ahead for Game 2.

When discussing the first game of the series, the players who did speak, had similar things to say.

“They seemed to take it to us physically and we know we’re going to have to match that intensity in Game 2,” Campoli said. “Even better, it would be nice to get off to a good start and take it to them a little bit.”

Some version of that was said by the other three players as well as by coach Joel Quenneville.

“In the first 10 minutes of the game we were on the receiving end of all aspects of the game,” Quenneville said. “We need to be more intense and harder to play against. We made it too easy on them.”

[+] EnlargeJonathan Toews and Henrik Sedin
Anne-Marie Sorvin/US PresswireThe Hawks weren't nearly physical enough in their first playoff game.
Frolik was the only forward to speak to the media Thursday, and he’s about the only player who hit anything Wednesday night, registering a team-high six hits. Getting outhit 20-9 in the first period wasn’t the end of the world; none of those hits led to great scoring chances for the Canucks. But it did set a tone.

The Canucks finished their checks and in the process told the Hawks it wasn’t going to be an easy opening game of the 2011 playoffs.

“Chicago had played five games in eight nights,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault explained. “Five stressful and intense games to get in. The last one they lose they think they’re out, probably a very emotional day. They fly in here on the Monday and we felt it was important for us to get off to a good start.”

In other words, Vigneault wanted his club to catch the Hawks while still on an emotional roller coaster from the weekend -- and it’s exactly what happened. But the Hawks recovered in time to play some decent hockey, and if not for a very good night by Roberto Luongo, the outcome may have been different. Don’t expect another 47-hit performance by Vancouver though. That was a one-time thing.

So we might have a series but the Hawks have to prove they can bring it for 60 minutes and cut down on some mistakes. Remember, the margin for error has shrunk compared to a season ago.

Duncan Keith has to get shots through and cut down on turnovers. Either would have prevented Jannik Hansen’s breakaway goal. A little better defensive coverage by Patrick Sharp and others on the Canucks’ first goal and it could have been prevented as well.

“We need more across the board,” Quenneville said.

The equation is simple: Better coverage, better scoring chances, more bodies to the net, and physical play. The Hawks don't need an overhaul. There was no soul searching after Game 1, but that might come if they get in a 2-0 hole.

For now, it’s wait and see. What kind of desperate response will the Stanley Cup champions provide? The next 60 minutes the Hawks play will tell a lot about their desire to fight long into the spring.

Vigneault can’t use the roller coaster of last weekend anymore and more importantly, the Hawks can’t let him.


• Expect Fernando Piasni to return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for Game 1. Tomas Kopecky is doubtful with an upper body injury.

• Joel Quenneville broke up the lines early in Game 1. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp were re-united while Marian Hossa skated with Michael Frolik.

Dave Bolland talked extensively on Thursday about not returning too soon from the concussion which has sidelined him since March 9. He said he's talking with the Hawks "mental coach", Jim Gary, to keep positive. He also named several players who have returned early from concussions and suffered further problems. It’s something he doesn’t want to experience.

Good time for Campoli's first goal as Hawk

March, 20, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- One Chicago Blackhawks' hero went down, but maybe another was born.

It might not end up to be as dramatic as that, but the Hawks gutted out a 2-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday at Arena thanks to Chris Campoli's first goal as a Hawk after losing Patrick Sharp to a left leg injury in the first period. Sharp will be re-evaluated on Monday.

Campoli scored the second power-play goal of the game by a Hawks’ defenseman to earn his new team a much needed two points.

[+] EnlargeChris Campoli
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesChris Campoli's first goal as a Blackhawk came at the right time Sunday.
“Good to get the monkey off my back,” Campoli said. “[It was] an important goal at an important time of the game. Happy to get it out of the way. Great pass, wide open net.”

The pass came from Jonathan Toews, through the crease, where Campoli ended up after pinching from the point. Campoli could very well have been taking Sharp’s place on that power play.

“It’s a play we run back door,” he said. “Tazer saw me and made a great pass through their defense and we executed the way we practiced it. It worked out well.”

From Toews’ perspective, his linemates on the power play were getting all the attention.

“I think they were anticipating that pass down low and to the net. [I] think the reason it was so wide open was with [Marian] Hossa and [Patrick] Kane we have three guys doing a cycle. I just happened to be the low guy. It was kind of a slow-motion play where all [Campoli] had to do was get good wood on it. And he made no mistakes. Obviously it was a huge goal for us.”

The goal came after a questionable holding penalty on Shane Doan. Late in the game, an argument could be made the call shouldn’t happen. That’s what the Coyotes felt.

“I’ve watched it 20 times,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it at all. To me there is no hold whatsoever. It’s very disappointing that a call like that can affect the game.”

Tied going into the third period isn’t a situation that’s suited the Hawks well this season. Thankfully, the Coyotes have performed just as poor in those sorts of games, now 3-4-6 when tied after two periods. The Hawks improved to 8-10-2. The key is they won the game without giving their fellow playoff contender a point.

“We need to find a way to win those tight games,” Toews said. “We’ve been in a lot of them and sometimes they don’t go our way, especially if they go to overtime. We can be happy about not giving them too many offensive chances. Every guy stepped up.”

And they might need to step up some more with another body going down. That makes three key Hawks—Sharp, Brian Campbell, and Dave Bolland -- out of the lineup.

This might not be the last game the Hawks have to gut out.



Patrick Kane
16 7 9 -2
GoalsP. Kane 7
AssistsP. Kane 9
+/-K. Versteeg 6
GAAC. Crawford 1.97