Chicago Blackhawks: Decisions to Make About 5 Restricted Free Agents

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IMay 14, 2012

Chicago Blackhawks: Decisions to Make About 5 Restricted Free Agents

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    The Chicago Blackhawks will be making decisions on their crop of free agents in the coming weeks. Last week, I submitted my opinions on the fates of veteran players who were due to become unrestricted free agents.

    Let's get a little younger now and examine the five players in the Blackhawks organization who will become restricted free agents. Chicago has more control over these players. Some have seen NHL action early in their careers, while others are toiling a bit lower in the system.

    This year's RFA class is a small group, but there are some interesting names in the mix for GM Stan Bowman. Who remains in the fold this summer?

Carter Hutton

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    – 7-7, 3.15 goals-against average, .900 save percentage in 14 games with Toledo (ECHL)

    – 22-13-4-3, 2.35 goals-against average, .917 save percentage in 43 games with Rockford (AHL)



    Hutton is a player who took advantage of poor play from both Alexander Salak and Alec Richards to become the IceHogs' starter in January. The 26-year-old UMass-Lowell standout had a big season and earned the one-year deal the 'Hawks signed him for back in February.

    Chicago is not extremely deep in net and could use a full season of Hutton in Rockford's crease to help that group of youngsters experience winning down in the minors. He would potentially be a capable backup if one of the two 'Hawks goalies were to go down.

    Hutton himself may want to find a situation where he can compete for a job in training camp, something he may not have in Chicago with Ray Emery signed. The 'Hawks may also choose to employ a more veteran type to anchor the net in Rockford.

    This will be one of Bowman's more interesting calls.

Ben Smith

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    – Two assists, minus-five in 13 games with the 'Hawks

    – 15 goals, 16 assists, plus-two in 38 games with Rockford (AHL)



    Smith may have logged a full season in Chicago if not for a concussion suffered late in the preseason. He missed about a month of action but played well in Rockford before undergoing surgery for multiple issues in March.

    Smith is a heady player who, when healthy, should be able to help the 'Hawks next season. He could be one of several faces looking to stick with Chicago this fall. He has had concussions in each of the last two seasons that have kept him out of action.

    Still, I would expect him back with a two-way deal.

Brandon Bollig

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    – Three goals, six assists, minus-five in 53 games with Rockford (AHL)

    – Zero goals, zero assists, minus-two in 18 games with Chicago



    Bollig was up for one reason: fighting. Bollig was willing to take on all comers, trailing only Jamal Mayers in fighting majors despite being around for just the last two months.

    Bollig is a young enforcer who more than knows his role. If the 'Hawks want him back, he can be had for a two-way deal similar to the terms of his current one ($550,000).

    Even if Bollig doesn't see the light of day in Chicago again, he provides value down in Rockford—mostly for the same willingness to scrap.

Chris DiDomenico

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    – Two goals, 11 assists, minus-two in 49 games with Rockford (AHL)

    – Four goals, 13 assists, plus-nine in 17 games with Toledo (ECHL)



    DiDomenico came over from Toronto in the trade that sent Kris Versteeg to the Leafs. A sixth-round pick by Toronto in the 2007 draft, he's an undersized forward who hasn't shown the scoring touch in the AHL.

    DiDomenico worked extremely hard to stick with Rockford for most of the season, but it's unlikely that he is going to be more than a third- or fourth-liner for the IceHogs.

    He is an effective scorer in the low minors, but that's probably not going to keep him in the organization.

Simon Danis-Pepin

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    – Three goals, six assists, minus-two in 25 games with Toledo (ECHL)

    – No goals or assists, minus-two in 14 games with Rockford (AHL)



    The 'Hawks drafted Danis-Pepin in the second round back in 2006. The 6'8" defenseman finished his career with the University of Maine and signed a three-year entry contract.

    He played in 38 games in Rockford in his first year with the organization and saw that number drop in each of the next two seasons. SDP was scratched often in Rockford in favor of AHL-contracted players like Ben Youds and players on tryouts like Connor Goggin.

    It's safe to say that the big Montreal native does not have much of a future with the organization. Danis-Pepin cuts an imposing figure on the ice, but is extremely slow and not in the least bit physical on the blue line.

    I'd be stunned if he were to be re-signed.