Blackhawks News

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off To Arbitration We Go

By Unknown author
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According to NHLPA.com 23 NHL restricted free agents have filed for arbitration, including Chris Campoli and Viktor Stalberg of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are also still in negotiations with forward Michael Frolik, who is not yet arbitration-eligible due to his age.

The good news is that the Hawks can still negotiate with Campoli and Stalberg up until their hearings which are scheduled to take place in Toronto somewhere between July 20 to August 4. Neither player can now accept an offer sheet from another team. The bad news – aside from the obvious uncertainty – is this handicaps the Blackhawks if they planned on including Stalberg in a trade, since a player who has filed for arbitration cannot be dealt during the arbitration process. The Hawks would also not receive compensation for either player if they chose to walk away from the arbitrator’s decision.

The Case for Campoli

Although it was reported that Campoli was playing with a torn meniscus (knee cartilage) that required surgery after the Vancouver series, it is expected that he will make a full recovery in time for training camp. He is likely to be paired with newly acquired Steve Montador or Niklas Halmarsson on what looks on paper to be one of the strongest defenses from top to bottom in the NHL.

Campoli is reportedly looking for somewhere in the $3M range. He also filed for arbitration last summer when he was an RFA in Ottawa, so the history is there. It’s hard to blame a guy for trying to get what he feels he’s worth – and an arbitration system is in place help ensure this. Still, Montador money should be out of the question. Steve Montador is a shut-down, shot-blocking defender who contributes on the PK. He has some offensive ability though and averaged 23.25 points and had a cumulative +34 Plus-Minus rating over his past four seasons.

Campoli is touted as a two-way defender with more of an offensive game. Despite this billing, he only averaged under 22 points and was -20 over his past four seasons. He’s never logged more than 3rd pair minutes while playing for the less-than-mediocre Senators and Islanders, and his special teams TOI has decreased annually. “Contributions to the team” is a factor in arbitration hearings and his role as a #6 defenseman with limited PP/PK time is unlikely to change on the Blackhawks. Montador money, you say? Regardless of the route, Campoli will probably receive something in the $2-2.25M range. This should be palatable for the Hawks who are looking to maintain cap space for future signings, possibly prior to next season’s trade deadline if a pickup can’t be made this summer.

Stalberg’s filing is a more curious case, as he has a very limited resume and his 12 goals and 24 points last season don’t scream “Show me the money!” I expect a small raise is in order, otherwise the Blackhawks will let him walk. The Blackhawks currently have an abundance of yet unproven LW’s. Although Stalberg has the highest potential upside of the group, he would be mostly sharing 4th line minutes next season and therefore not worth more than $1-1.25M.

A Sign of Weakness?

Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com asks “Is the news…an indication that general manager Stan Bowman is having trouble signing his three restricted free agents?” Ya think? I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what this means, but the implication that this is due to shortcomings on Bowman’s part doesn’t hold water.

Many, including Rogers, seem to be suggesting this is a sign that Stan Bowman isn’t a likable ol’ chum like former GM Dale Tallon who is considered a “player’s manager.” Although I agree that Stan seems to be lacking in the personality department, it’s easy to be liked when you consistently open your wallet and say “Take what you need – are you sure you don’t need a little more, just in case?” The other case against Bowman is that he blundered by not signing Campoli prior to inking Steve Montador who was a day away from becoming a UFA. These arguments are absurd in my opinion.

If the reports that Campoli is asking upwards of $3M are true, then Stan Bowman is correct in standing firm. You want to play for a championship caliber team? Then you don’t get what is now en vogue to call Florida money. And although I won’t dismiss their importance to the team, Campoli and Frolik are just “guys” and Stalberg is still an unknown. Frolik is projected as the Hawks’ 3rd line RW next season and Campoli as a 3rd, sometimes 2nd, pair defender. You don’t remain a contender in a salary-capped league by overpaying “guys.”

John Schultz, lead writer for Blackhawk Up. Please leave a comment and follow me on Twitter @ChiNativeSon.

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