According to their website, the Chicago Blackhawks have re-signed 25 year old forward Viktor Stalberg to a two-year extension. Per Adam Jahns, the deal is worth $1.75M over two years / $875K per season.
Score another victory for Stan Bowman. In a market where mediocre players continue to get paid, this is a very cap-friendly contract. Yes, Stalberg was an RFA, but I was expecting somewhere in the $1.25M/year range. And although Stalberg has yet to prove he’s as value a piece to the puzzle as Frolik or Campoli, his re-signing gives the Blackhawks flexibility in more ways than one.
Andrew Brunette, Rusty Olesz, Brian Bickell, Dan Carcillo, Victor Stalberg, Jeremy Morin, Kyle Beach, and Rob Klinkhammer are all in the mix in what is looking more and more like a future dogfight at left wing (although this summer’s signings have made it less likely that Klinkhammer will ever wear the Indian head). I’m leaving Patrick Sharp out of the conversation for now since the current lack of depth at center will force him into the 2nd line center role full-time, but he’s obviously another – and coincidentally, the best – option at LW.
Stalberg would be the most attractive trade bait of the players on the current roster. There will always be a demand for big, speedy left wingers and many view Stalberg as a work in progress. Stalberg and a prospect or two might be what is required for the Hawks to pick up a proven 2nd line LW or center.
If a trade is not in the near future, then Stalberg gives Stan some options with the current roster. The Hawks still might be able to buyout Olesz or choose to send him down to Rockford. It’s doubtful many, if any, teams would want him in a trade. If Olesz is not on the roster, than Stalberg will be given every opportunity to grab the LW spot on the 2nd line. Morin would then be in the mix too, since he is more NHL-ready than Beach. The Blackhawk have the bodies to rotate players in and out of that slot until a trade can be made, possibly near next season’s trade deadline. The Hawks will have the cap space to acquire even the largest of contracts at a prorated cap hit.
Conversely, if a trade isn’t made this summer and Olesz makes a full recovering from knee surgery, then it is much more likely Olesz will be on the open day roster. The Hawks should have in the ballpark of $2.75M in cap space if they are able to re-sign Campoli and Frolik. If they send Olesz down and bring up Morin, that’s an additional cap savings of $2.25M. There’s little reason the Hawks would need that $5M in cap space going into the season. It’s more likely they give Olesz a chance at 2LW before eating the cost of a $3.125M/year player. Remember, they still have one more year to pay on Cristobal Huet‘s $5.625M/year contract, and according to Rocky Wirtz, the team continues to operate in the red.
Morin also missed a large chunk of last season and is only 20 years old. He could use the extra time in Rockford (where his base AHL contract only costs the Hawks $67,500/year). Olesz has a history of injuries, so it is likely Morin will joining the big club by mid-season anyways.
With Morin and Beach projected as the Hawks’ future 1st and 2nd line LW’s, Stalberg serves as insurance in case either’s development falters. The $875k cap hit buys Stalberg some time to prove he can contribute on the top lines. I personally don’t see Stalberg as the answer now or in the future, but the price is right to find out for sure.
John Schultz, lead writer for BlackhawkUp. Please leave a comment and follow me on Twitter@ChiNativeSon.