Hawks re-sign three, part ways with Salak; plus notes on Hawks draft and goaltending, Ed Belfour and Jimmy Waite

By Chris Block

Blackhawks announced they’ve re-signed three restricted free agents today.

Ben Smith, Brandon Bollig and goaltender Carter Hutton all inked new deals.

According to reports, Smith and Bollig each signed two-year contracts.

Bollig’s first year is a two-way deal.  He’ll be paid at a rate of $575,000 in the NHL and $105,000 if he plays in the AHL.  His second year is a one-way contract paying him $575,000.

Ben Smith is also on a two-way contract for 2012-13.  Smith will reportedly earn $550,000 when he’s playing at the NHL level and $105,000 in the minors.  In 2013-14, Smith has a guaranteed contract for $575,000.

Carter Hutton agreed to a one-year, two-way contract.

–On Friday, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Alexander Salak on waivers.  The rest of the league has apparently passed on Salak.  Today it was announced the Blackhawks and Salak agreed to an outright release.

Salak had one year remaining on the two-year contract he got from the Blackhawks last summer.  His deal was a one-way contract.  Meaning Salak would have to be paid $600,000 over the 2012-13 season whether he played in the NHL, AHL or ECHL.

We wrote about Salak’s current status with the Blackhawks and potential for him being shipped out before this news broke in our update on Friday.

My impression was this is a procedural step in loaning Salak to a team overseas should he not be able to be moved to another NHL team.  The problem with trading Salak is he’s likely to be headed straight for the AHL no matter which of the other 29 teams he would wind up on.  And that team would have to be very high on Salak due to the nature of his contract.

–I don’t know this for certain, but as of a few weeks ago I was under the impression Chris DiDomenico would not be offered a new NHL contract or be tendered a qualifying offer.  DiDomenico (who came over from Toronto with Viktor Stalberg and Philippe Paradis in the Kris Versteeg deal) and defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin are the Blackhawks only other RFAs.  Danis-Pepin (a 2nd rounder in 2006) won’t be back.

Sean O’Donnell, Sami Lepisto (signed with KHL), Andrew Brunette, Brendan Morrison and Cristobal Huet are the Blackhawks remaining un-restricted free agents.

–Its apparently no secret the Hawks are dangling a recent top draft pick in trade talks.  They almost have no choice if they want to make a significant move since it appears Niklas Hjalmarsson or Viktor Stalberg alone won’t get a deal done.

–I’ve seen a lot written on the Hawks first pick at #18 and many speculating, or urging, Stan Bowman to use that pick to select a goaltender.

The problem with that logic is that any goaltender you select in this draft is at least three years, more likely four, from being NHL ready.  So unless you’re willing to wait four years for the Hawks to remedy the goaltending situation (if you believe they have one) it’s hard to justify spending your first round pick on a goalie.  Mark Kelley, Stan Bowman and crew would have to be completely smitten with one of the 18-year old goaltenders on the board to go that route.

A lot can change in four years.  Corey Crawford could be a Stanley Cup winning goaltender by then.  You also have to consider the pressure you’d be putting on a goalie drafted at #18.  Crawford has two years left on his deal so he’ll either need a new one or the Hawks will need a new goalie two summers from now.  It’s unreasonable to expect an 18-year old you pick this week will be the answer to that question in 2014.

The Hawks will definitely pick a goalie or two in this weekend’s draft.  Goaltending depth in the pipeline is constant concern for every team.  However, picking one at #18 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you’re not getting a return on that investment for at least four years, if you get any return at all.  Especially when you can pick a forward, or one of many highly rated defenseman at #18 and see that player making an impact in a Blackhawks uniform in the next two to three seasons.

There are three goalies considered to be first round, or high second round worthy in this draft: Andrei Vasilevski (6-3, 205, Russia), Malcom Subban (6-1, 190, Belleville, OHL) and Oscar Dansk (6-2, 185, Brynas, Sweden).

Subban has incredible athleticism and only started playing the position at the age of 12, but he has been plagued by groin issues.  Vasilevski was incredible for Russia at the World Juniors until he imploded against Canada in the semi-finals.  Dansk has gotten the least hype but may be the best of the three.  Scouts say Dansk has great mechanics and is a terrific puck handler, the best in that category in this draft.

The last goaltender the Blackhawks drafted in the first round was Adam Munro, 29th overall in 2001.  Remember him?  Probably not.  He had stints as a backup in Chicago as late as the 2005-06 season but he was never anything more than a marginal minor league goalie.  Before that you have to go back to 1987 and Jimmy Waite (more on him below) to a time when the Hawks expensed a first rounder on a backstop.

Its more likely the Hawks will use their second pick (currently #48th overall) on a goaltender.  With some luck, Dansk could slip to that spot.  Its also possible Subban would if NHL teams looking to bid that high on the position start second-guessing on Subban’s groin.  Vasilevski is regarded as perhaps the best raw talent in that draft, but inconsistency and mental issues are concerns scouts have stated.

The Hawks used a second rounder to pick up Corey Crawford (52nd overall) in 2003.  Kent Simpson, who looks to be the early favorite at being the backup in Rockford next season was taken 58th overall in 2010.  Simpson in particular is a guy the organization has hopes for.  He played on some average teams lately in junior and his numbers were down because of that.

–In reference to Friday’s update, we’ve been told the Norfolk Admirals head coaching job is basically Trent Yawney’s to turn down.  So you can probably scratch Norfolk off the potential places of employment for Mike Haviland next season.  Yawney’s contract with the Anaheim Ducks did expire with this past season, however the Ducks were very happy with the job he did with the Syracuse team since jumping behind the bench in early January and the Ducks want him to continue coaching their AHL affiliate as it now relocates to Norfolk, Virginia.

Short Q&A on the draft with Blackhawks Direct of Amateur Scouting, Mark Kelley

–At this point it looks like our next podcast is going to be this Wednesday night, but that could change.  We’ll be previewing the Hawks draft in depth, doing more listener emails and talking whatever news pops up between now and then.

–On this date in Blackhawks history….

25 years ago today, June 18, 1987 – the Blackhawks signed 22-year old Ed Belfour to his first professional contract.  Belfour had recently completed the one season he played at the University of North Dakota.  He would spent his first two seasons in the Blackhawks organization playing for the Saginaw Hawks.  Then at age 25, in the 1990-91 season, Belfour became the number one goaltender in Chicago.  He went 43-19-7 (ties) during his rookie season with a .910 save percentage and 2.47 goals against average (a lot more goal scoring in that era).  Belfour won a triple crown of his own that season, winning the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year), William Jennings Trophy (lowest goals against average) and Vezina (top goaltender).  That was also the season the Blackhawks won the only Presidents Trophy (best regular season record) in franchise history.

Also, 19 years ago today the Blackhawks traded goaltender Jimmy Waite to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defenseman Neil Wilkinson and goaltender Jeff Hackett.

The Blackhawks drafted Jimmy Waite with the 8th overall pick in the first round of the 1987 NHL Draft in Detroit, Michigan.  Five days later the Hawks signed Ed Belfour.

Waite was widely regarded as the next great goaltender at the time.  He was often compared to Patrick Roy (partly because Waite was French Canadian, replicated Roy’s butterfly style and watched Roy’s first pro season in his hometown of Sherbrooke, Quebec when that city had an AHL franchise), who had only completed his second NHL season by the time Waite was drafted, though Roy won a Cup (and the Conn Smythe Trophy) with the Canadiens in his rookie season.

Waite’s tenure as a backup goaltender in Chicago was a rocky one.  By the time Waite was ready to play in the NHL, Belfour had already cemented himself was ‘the guy’ in Chicago.  Waite had a public blowup with Mike Keenan in 1992.  Waite was sent back to the minors on a conditioning assignment in January after Keenan had started Belfour 25 games in a row.  While Waite was in Indianapolis, Keenan told the media they were trying to trade him.  Waite had been offered up on waivers earlier that season and claimed by Philadelphia, though in those days you could pull your guy off waivers even if a claim was put in by another organization.  The Hawks did just that to the Flyers and eventually sent Waite to the minors under the guise of a conditioning assignment, thus avoiding another waiver process.  Waite did wind up sticking with the Blackhawks through that 91-92 season and served as the backup to Belfour the following season before eventually getting traded to San Jose.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com
PuckChatter@gmail.com
Twitter.com/ChrisBlock

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4 Responses to Hawks re-sign three, part ways with Salak; plus notes on Hawks draft and goaltending, Ed Belfour and Jimmy Waite

  1. “A recent top draft pick”= McNeill? The Blackhawks just seem to like Danault, Saad and Hayes to much to send them away for anything but a significant improvement of the current roster.

  2. Excellent writing Chris. I was at Jimmy waite’s NHL debut in buffalo in the late 80s, a 5 4 loss in overtime. There was a good article in the hockey news about goalies taking 8 years to develop according to Jim nill. It was an excellent read. I think you are correct hawks will draft 2 goalies then let mature and develop over time. With hut ton, Simpson, carruth add 2 more and hopefully you end up with an NHL number one out of that group. Too many first rounders have turned out like Dan Blackburn or maxime oullett.

    • Thanks Craig. Don’t forget Johan Mattsson as well. Disappointing year this past for him but keep an eye on him this coming season. And Alec Richards as well. For him its all going to come down to how well he starts this fall. Richards never really got going last season and struggled with his confidence. He needs a strong camp to get back in the game. Without one you can probably write him off. Simpson looked great in the one game he got in with the ‘Hogs. But its still one game. Haven’t heard one way or another but Carruth could still return to junior. As for Jimmy Waite, he was done no favors by graduating to the NHL into a role he was essentially the guy who essentially filled Belfour’s water bottle. He was a great prospect. And he only retired a couple years ago. Played in Europe until he was 41.

  3. You would think one or two would come out of that pack but hey Remember michael ayers, Christian soucy and Chris rogles …. Yikes

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