Blackhawks 4, Oilers 1

In another strange turn through the Hawks title defense tour, they managed to turn one of their more important games of the season into an afterthought.  About an hour before their tilt against the Edmonton Oilers, they announced the trade of Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan to the Florida Panthers for Michael Frolik and Alexander Salak.

Salak was one of the numerous goaltending prospects in the Panther organization.  He’s currently playing in the Swedish Elite League.  Last year, he played in the AHL with the Rochester Americans and had a 91% save percentage with 2.89 Goals against.  He’s in the final year of a two year contract with a $1.3 million cap hit and is a restricted free agent in the summer. 

With Alec Richards still a fairly large project and Hannu Toivonen being Hannu Toivonen, Salak immediately becomes the top goalie prospect within the Hawks system.  Within Florida’s system, he was the odd man out after Jakub Markstrom was deemed the heir apparent so he was shipped off to Sweden this year and now his rights belong to Chicago.

As per usual, it’s important to remember here that goalies are incredibly unpredictable and just because Florida gave up on him, that doesn’t mean he’s garbage.  And considering the price that was paid for him and just how pathetic their goalies prospects were before tonight, it’s a decent gamble for the Hawks to make.  

The other piece coming is two-time 20 goal scorer, 22-year old Michael Frolik.  The former 10th overall pick of the 2006 draft is here for the present.  Playing in the final year of his rookie contract, Stan Bowman has already said he considers Frolik to be here for the long-term.  Let’s just wait and see on that.

Frolik has played center and wing in his career.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t played any center at all this year.  Fortunately, the Hawks are so desperately thin at center that it shouldn’t matter.  What Frolik does, though, is he should bring stability to a Hawks lineup that needs it really bad.  

The first thing Joel Quenneville should do tomorrow is pencil Frolik in as his second center for the remainder of this year.  Let him play with Marian Hossa (assuming he’s not dead) and whomever else, Troy Brouwer, Tomas Kopecky, etc, and be done with it.  Put Patrick Sharp on the wing, play him with Kane and Toews, let them streak for awhile.  No more Tomas Kopecky or Patrick Sharp at center. 

(Of course, that’s not going to happen.  Joel Quenneville already said in his post-game comments that Frolik can play all three forward positions and he likes his versatility.  So he’ll likely be bouncing all over the place.) 

Frolik will also bring a little more skill on the second power play unit.  Before tonight, it was Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, and Tomas Kopecky or Bryan Bickell.  Gross.

This has been Frolik’s worst year in the pros after two straight seasons of 20+ goals and 20+ assists.  With only 8 goals, he fell out of favor in Florida this year and was recently relegated to the 4th line.  The Hawks have to be hoping a change of scenery will kickstart his season.  Otherwise, they’ve simply taken somebody else’s trash.  It is a little worrisome that Florida would let someone like Frolik go without much prying.  Again though, when considering what they gave up and where they were prior, it’s a gamble worth taking.

As for what the Hawks gave up, it wasn’t a whole lot.  It’s comical to see Comcast Sportsnet having Hugh Jessiman listed as a prospect.  He hasn’t been a prospect since Sidney Crosby was drafted.  Jack Skille was a lost cause on this Hawks roster.  He wasn’t responsible enough to play important minutes and he wasn’t skilled enough to get a prolonged chance with a top line.  It just never was going to work with Joel Quenneville.  David Pacan is still a fairly large project.  The 2009 6th round pick was kicked off the University of Vermont’s team at the beginning of the year for disciplinary reasons and played for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.

So it’s not like anyone will be pining for these three when things go sour for the Hawks.    

Some other important aspects of the trade that should be discussed:

  • The inclusion of Hugh Jessiman opens up a spot (finally) on the Hawks 50 man roster.  It also puts Rockford under the veteran limit.  Which leads to:
  • It gives the ability to make a trade without giving up anyone on the Hawks current roster.  Their countless 2nd and 3rd round picks are suddenly in play.  Not to mention, they can also ship someone like, say Nick Boynton, to Rockford to open a little bit more cap space.  Which leads to:
  • As it currently sits, according to CapGeek, the Hawks can acquire someone with a max cap hit of about $855,000.  That should be more than enough for the 5th or 6th defensemen they so badly need.

While the Hawks easily received the two best players in this trade and it looks pretty terrific on paper, it should also be noted Stan Bowman had to get himself out of the mess he created.  He was the one who signed Garnet Exelby, Nick Boynton, Ryan Potulny, and Ryan Johnson and pinned himself down with the 50 man roster and the AHL veteran maximum.  He just so happened to get lucky enough to find someone who was willing to help him out.

So the Hawks sit at 2-2 on the road trip now.  They’re getting some offensive reinforcements in Frolik; a defenseman can’t be too far off at this point, and that’s probably going to be the roster the Hawks go with down the stretch.  The gritty forward people want them to acquire may have to come from within because unless someone else gets moved off this roster, they’re not going to have the cap space for anything more.

Oh yeah, and the Hawks beat a miserable Edmonton team tonight.

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17 Responses to Blackhawks 4, Oilers 1

  1. AC says:

    Interesting move. Frolik has enough experience to be considered a veteran, but is young enough to have room to grow. He has had a couple of good years and ~50 goals in under 3 years, so that seems to be a big positive. Skille was never going to get a chance here, hopefully he excels in Florida and wish him luck. No one can ever question his desire or energy that he brought to the games, just the ability to slow down the game to make plays. At least he won’t be scratched for the trash that is John Scott in Florida.

    It will be interesting to see what they will be looking at, either at forward or 6th d-man. This would seem to put Hendry (if d-man) or Dowell (if forward) as the odd man out.

    Leddy looked good last night, outside of a couple of bad turnovers. He showed a lot of confidence and had some really nice pinches on the offensive side (but backed out when he should). There was even a 3 on 3 where he pushed Keith over to the outside man and put Keith into the right position. He seems to be really growing into an NHL role, but still needs to grow physically.

  2. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    Excellent breakdown, I’m wondering if other Hawks fans feel the same as myself that Salak was a steal in this trade considering he is a good goaltending prospect from a bad florida club that had a better goaltending prospect.

  3. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    If that last comment makes sense

  4. Patrick says:

    Thank God the Hawks won – oh, and they made a trade too. I like the deal and think that this has potential to be like the trade that Stan made with Barker (although I’d rather that Frolik doesn’t lose his marbles). Happy, happy, joy joy…

  5. alpo says:

    With Hossa’s play underwhelming since coming back from injury, I think I’d still stick with Sharp on the 2nd line. Otherwise, I feel we become too top-heavy. It’s just a line of Kopecky, Hossa and Frolik does nothing for me. Though, I do remember a line of Bolland, Bickell and Brouwer have had some nice games.

  6. Otter says:

    Am I underwhelmed by last nights game because:
    1) The Oilers stink
    2) The Hawks power play stunk
    3) I’m slowly realizing that the Hawks are good, but nothing special
    4) The Habs/Bruins highlights were much more enjoyable than the entire Hawks/Oilers game

    I don’t know, maybe it’s all four. It is hard to gage the Hawks against a putrid team like the Oilers. Easy win that was never in doubt, but still the power play was so bad.

  7. Francis Roberts says:

    Nice post, John, and some very good comments above. This is potentially a very interesting trade. You have to hope that Stan has not missed any significant issue with Frolik (character, injury, etc). Something obviously happend to the guy this season. As for Skille, I agree that that it was never going to happen for him in Chicago. Good luck to him, and hopefully he gets plenty of icetime to show whether or not he’s got the right stuff. I actually liked the new d-pairings, even it was done just as a change of pace.

    Did anyone notice the interview w. Kane after the game? When asked about what he thought about Frolik, he spent the first part of the answer talking abouit how he would miss Skille. I wonder if the Hawks brass was sending a message here.

  8. John says:

    @Francis–I doubt that. They all said the same things when Cam Barker, James Wisniewski, and Tuomo Ruutu were traded mid-season. Besides, Jack Skille wasn’t exactly a voice or character that’s going to change the dynamic of their locker room.

  9. AC says:

    It’s pretty obvious that the real reason that Skille was traded was because he was so outspoken about being a Packers fan! ;)

  10. Cam says:

    From what I understand, Skille was one of the more vociferous and outgoing of the newcomers to this year’s roster. I don’t know what they’ll change, but I’m sure he had his share of friends.

    As for Frolik, I recall when he was considered a top 3 prospect for his draft before slipping. I haven’t gotten to watch him play hardly at all in the NHL, but 21 goals his first two seasons is nothing to sniff at. And he’s still very young. Not a bad gamble.

  11. John says:

    What difference does it make who his friends are….the bottom line is if Skille did anything the Hawks wanted him to do this year (i.e. play on a scoring line), he’d still be here. The only message that was sent was : Be good at hockey and we won’t look to replace you with someone else.

  12. JM says:

    Glad to see any kind of a shake up. Watching Hawks games has turned into a chore.

    By the way – what will it take to make Kane take it into the zone and drive it all the way to the net? If only to make defenses respect the fact he does, actually, have additional options besides stopping at the half circle and feeding the trailer.

  13. ArlingtonRob says:

    I think John summed up the situation nicely. And I don’t consider this trade a “gamble”…perhaps a slam dunk is a better description. The deal makes sense without Salak, but now we have a solid goalie prospect too!

    Thank you Dale, may we have another! How about Weiss for Dowell and a bag of pucks (ignoring the cap hit of course).

  14. Cam says:

    “What difference does it make who his friends are….”

    *

    Well, you did say the loss of Skille wouldn’t change the dynamics of the locker room. I think they were already changed minus some of the more colorful people like Versteeg, Byfuglien and Ladd gone.

    *

    “Be good at hockey and we won’t look to replace you with someone else.”

    I think the idea behind the trade was more of a gamble in hopes Frolik can find his scoring flair. Skille certainly wasn’t the problem with this team. More important to this season’s woes have been people like Hossa, Turco, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson and, early on, Browuer and Bolland.

  15. John says:

    My point is they wouldn’t have been looking to trade Skille if he was performing the way they expected him to. He wasn’t the main problem but he wasn’t the solution either. His friends on the team had nothing to do with trading him.

    I haven’t been in the Hawks locker room nor do I pretend to know what’s going on, but I can promise you no one looked to Skille for guidance or leadership. That’s why I said the dynamics of the room haven’t changed.

  16. Francis Roberts says:

    Cam, I agree with you that Skille is in no way the problem for the Hawks, but I think that John has it essentially right: my view is that Skille is basically built to be a top six scoring forward, and he never came close to achieving that as a Hawk. If he is still in the NHL in 3-4 years it is probably not as a 4th liner, and going to Fla. is probably the best chance he will get to prove himself.

    John, the point I was trying to make in my earlier comment was that Management can accomplish multiple objectives with a trade. There is the pure tactical objective of trying to fill a strategic void, and the Hawks made a reasonably good bet in trying to get a second line center. But there is also the objective of trying shake things up, to say that you as team are underperforming, and we as Management will not stand by passively. Trading a respected guy like Skille could actually be more of a wakeup call than trading a bad guy.

  17. coach says:

    Im just wondering why Tallon would help the hawks? seemingly

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