Chicago Blackhawks: What Happens to the 7 Unrestricted Free Agents?

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IMay 11, 2012

Chicago Blackhawks: What Happens to the 7 Unrestricted Free Agents?

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    The Chicago Blackhawks have decisions to make on players who have expiring contracts this summer.

    GM Stan Bowman signed several players to one-year deals last July 1, presumably to allow several prospects to grow into roles at the NHL level. Chicago has seven players who become UFAs in July.

    Which players will be brought back?

    Daniel Carcillo and Ray Emery were each re-signed during the 2011-12 season. Will any of the following players join them back for another season with the 'Hawks?

Andrew Brunette

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    2011-12 Contract: $2 million

    Stats: 12 goals, 15 assists, minus-13 in 78 games

    Outlook: The 'Hawks could spend this money in a more productive fashion. Brunette never got comfortable on a line and posted the lowest numbers in a full season for his career. That career could well be over. If Brunette decides to give it another go, it won't be with the Blackhawks.

Brendan Morrison

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    2011-12 Cap Hit: $1.25 million

    Stats: four goals, seven assists, minus-five in 39 games

    Outlook: His playoff goal notwithstanding, Morrison wasn't able to add anything to the mix when he came aboard in late January in exchange for minor leaguer Brian Connelly. Bowman made a low-risk trade that turned out to have little upside. At 36, Morrison is also likely to consider retirement. Either way, don't look for Bowman to offer a contract.

Jamal Mayers

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    2011-12 Contract: $550,000

    Stats: six goals, nine assists, minus-four in 81 games

    Outlook: Up until the point Joel Quenneville chose to bench Mayers in the playoffs, I would have guaranteed a return engagement for the veteran forward. Mayers came in and did all the team could have expected from a skater who turned 37 during the season, held down fourth-line minutes and won faceoffs. For what doesn't figure to be much in the line of a raise, Mayers would be a handy guy to retain.

    It does seem odd that Carcillo and Emery were signed in-season, but they haven't decided on Mayers yet. On the other hand, perhaps they have.

Johnny Oduya

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    2011-12 Cap Hit: $3.5 million

    Stats: three goals, 15 assists, minus-four in 81 games

    Outlook: At his current price and as a second-pairing defenseman, in no way would I like to see Oduya back. In the right role and for the right price, there is a possibility that Bowman could work out a deal. This could turn out much like the Chris Campoli negotiations that went south.

    I feel like if Oduya signed for $1.5 to $2 million a season to play as a fifth or sixth defenseman he would be a real asset to the 'Hawks. If the price goes higher, Chicago should let him walk.

Sean O'Donnell

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    2011-12 Contract: $850,000

    Stats: seven assists, minus-six in 51 games

    Outlook: For all the grumbling that came with O'Donnell's lack of speed, he was exactly what Bowman signed him to be. He was a reserve defenseman who played on occasion, though he probably was used too much earlier in the season.

    Just the same, I wouldn't expect O'Donnell to be employed by the 'Hawks next fall.

Sami Lepisto

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    2011-12 Contract: $750,000

    Stats: one goal, two assists, plus-three in 26 games

    Outlook: There is little use in debating how Lepisto would have fared if he had been used more often. Bowman picked up a player late in the summer who Quenneville did not see fit to use. Period.

    Lepisto will undoubtedly try and find someplace where he can play next season. It's hard to believe that Chicago is that place.

Cristobal Huet

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    2011-12 Cap Hit: $5.625 million (Note: this actually wasn't a cap hit because Huet did not play in the NHL).

    Stats: 1.99 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in 39 regular season games with Fribourg-Gotteron, Huet's team in the Swiss National A League.

    Outlook: Are you kidding?

    Huet could still find a job in the NHL as a backup goalie if he chooses to return to North America. For a million dollars, he could solidify a team's depth in net. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that Huet will not be Chicago's to loan out in a few weeks.

    I will run down the list of restricted free agents throughout the organization in the next day or so.