May 262012

By Chris Block

RDS’s Renaud Lavoie is reporting the Chicago Blackhawks have agreed to terms with forward Jamal Mayers on a one-year contract extension.

The deal is said to be valued at $600,000 with Mayers receiving $50,000 of it up front as a signing bonus.  Those numbers are a slight raise from the $550,000 Mayers made in 2011-12 (the signing bonus on that deal was $25k).

Mayers turns 38 in October.

Used mostly as a fourth line center for the Blackhawks in 2011-12, Mayers played in 81 regular season games scoring 6 goals and 9 assists.  He was also a minus-4 with 91 penalty minutes.  Mayers was sometimes thrust into the role as Blackhawks enforcer as well since John Scott had trouble getting on the ice and when he was very few were dumb enough to fight him.

Mayers would now be the second free agent signing from last summer that Stan Bowman has given an extension.  You can make that three if you count Ray Emery, who was signed just prior to the start of the season in October.  Emery was given a new one-year deal on April 7th, nearly doubling his salary in the process from $600,000 to $1.15M.  Emery turns 30 in September.

Dan Carcillo was also brought in on a one-year deal, signed on July 1, 2011 for the sum of $775,000.  On March 12th, the Blackhawks signed Carcillo for another two years.  He’ll make $800,000 this next season and $850,000 in 2013-14.

Carcillo missed the final 43 games of the regular season and the playoff series with Phoenix after tearing the ACL in his left knee in a game against Edmonton on January 2.  He underwent surgery on January 17 and is expected to be fully recovered by late June.

Mayers was cast as a center all year long, a position he rarely played in his career.  While he was surprisingly good in the role, especially during the first few months of the season, Mayers tired in that demanding position as the season wore along.  It was evident his coach realized this as well.  Joel Quenneville scratched Mayers for the final three games of the playoff series with the Coyotes.

Its not at all a surprise Mayers is being brought back.  At 38, he’ll be best utilized however as a 12th/13th forward as a winger who can also slide over on the draw and take some key face offs when needed.  He’s a dependable vet who has a lot of respect from the guys in the room and around the league.

Other players headed for unrestricted free agency who don’t figure to return are Andrew Brunette, Brendan Morrison and Sean O’Donnell.  Brunette basically said after his exit interview that he didn’t much interest from the Hawks in bringing him back.  Morrison is said to be considering retirement and O’Donnell, while still serviceable to some teams, turns 41 in October.  Other unrestricted defensemen in Johnny Oduya and Sami Lepisto are also in limbo.  The Blackhawks are also now done paying goaltender Cristobal Huet.

The restricted free agents the Blackhawks either have to sign, tender qualifying offers to or set free into free agency are Carter Hutton, Ben Smith, Brandon Bollig, Chris DiDomenico and Simon Danis-Pepin.  Hutton, Smith and Bollig will be tendered offers if terms cannot be reached before the draft next month.  I’d expect DiDomenico will get some kind of offer but Danis-Pepin (a 2nd round pick in 2006) is likely done with the Hawks.

Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg each have one year remaining on their existing contracts before they can be unrestricted free agents under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement.  That may or may not be an article the league will look to amend in the new CBA that will need to be in place before there is a 2012-13 season.

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