Michael Frolik: A Boon for the Blackhawks?
The old Florida Panthers held on to their draft choices as if they were all precious diamonds, no matter what their play might indicate. Dale Tallon has shown a willingness to part with those picks. He dealt the best young Florida Panther, forward Nathan Horton, and another aging prospect, Greg Campbell, to the Bruins for defenseman Dennis Wideman and a third round pick.
Now Tallon has traded a pair of Czechs, winger Michael Frolik and goalie Alexander Salak, for Chicago youngster Jack Skille, and prospects Hugh Jessiman and David Pacan.
Michael Frolik was Florida's first round (10th overall) pick in 2006. The Czech left winger spent two years in the Quebec Major Junior hockey league as an offensive star. At the age of 20 he jumped to the NHL and became a 20-goal scorer as a rookie. A good skater and playmaker, Frolik has a great deal of one-on-one skill. He is also obviously capable of scoring as he had 21 goals in his second season in the NHL as well.
This year, at 22, he has eight goals and 29 points in 52 games. These numbers are comparable to his previous seasons. His skills are likely to flourish in Chicago where he should be a top-six forward with a much more talented group of linemates than he had in Florida.
Once dubbed the "Baby Jagr" the 6'1" 194 lb native of Kladno in the Czech Republic lacks the physical presence of a Jagr. Still, at his age and with his skill set he was the Florida Panther most likely to become great in the next few years. His chance of success has gone up with this trade.
Who won this trade?
Alexander Salak is a goalie signed by the Panthers from the Finnish league. He had a good season last year for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, the Panthers' farm club. He got in 48 games and had a .910 save percentage and 2.89 GAA.
Salak returned to Europe this year and is now playing for Farjestaad BK of the Swedish Elite League. He currently leads the league with a .925 save percentage and 6 shutouts in 41 games.
Salak is a solid NHL goaltending prospect who finds himself far down the depth chart in a Florida organization that will have plenty of goalies even if Tomas Vokoun signs elsewhere in the offseason.
Alexander Salak addresses a pressing Chicago Blackhawks need for more young talented goalies in the organization. He is likely to be on the depth chart with AHLers Hannu Toivonen and Alec Richards and just behind Corey Crawford and Marty Turco.
Jack Skille is another high draft pick. He was taken by Chicago in the first round in 2005 (seventh overall). Skille's path to the NHL hasn't been as smooth as Frolik's. He has proven himself to be a competent AHL scorer with 16, 20 and 23 goals in three seasons with the Rockford IceHogs.
Skille is only marginally bigger than Frolik at 6'1" 205 lbs but he is a much more physical player. He is a faster skater with a good shot but doesn't possess the playmaking or stickhandling skills that Frolik does.
In this his fourth season trying out with the Blackhawks he has finally stuck. At the age of 23 he has seven goals and 17 points in 49 games.
He's a year older than Frolik and not as skilled. He has a Kyle Okposo quality that suggests he could become a top-quality checking winger with a scoring touch in the NHL. Unfortunately the knock on him so far in his career has been that he is a selfish offensive player who won't back-check. That's not the formula for a quality checking forward.
Skille has good offensive talent and he brings a physical dimension to the Panthers. He is not a top six offensive forward at this point in his career. He is still young. If learns to be a better defensive forward or blooms offensively he could be a valuable contributor in Florida. Right now he looks like a guy who will drift down to the third or fourth line.
David Pacan is good sized (6'3" 189 lbs) center who is currently playing with the Mississauga Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
Only 19, Pacan was a Chicago Blackhawks sixth round pick (117th overall) in 2009. He is a good young prospect, but only that, and Chicago has a glut of young talented forwards in their organization.
Hugh Jessiman, at 26, is a more NHL-ready prospect. He was a New York Rangers first round pick (12th overall) back in 2003. The hulking forward (6'6" 231 lbs) has scored 20 goals or more twice at the AHL level but he has had more than 100 penalty minutes in three separate AHL seasons.
Jessiman is a big man with skills who has been asked to take on the goon's role at times in his career. Despite his size and strength Hugh is not really a fighter. Hugh Jessiman can bring more size and strength to the Florida Panther roster. He looks to be about as NHL-ready as he is ever going to be.
The Chicago Blackhawks seem to have gotten the best player in the deal with the very talented Mr Frolik. They also acquired a quality goalie who has proved himself AHL- and Swedish Elite League-ready and fills a team need.
In return, Chicago has given up two prospects, one deep on their depth chart and the other unlikely ever to make the team in Chicago. Jack Skille the best player going to Florida in the deal was wearing out his welcome in Chicago. The blazingly fast American-born skater still has a load of potential.
Florida has picked up the physical Skille, the goonish Jessiman and potential in Pacan.
Michael Frolik and Alexander Salak are both restricted free agents next year. Jack Skille is also and RFA next year but should be much cheaper to sign. Hugh Jessiman is an unrestricted free agent who can be released if he doesn't work out. This is one deal at least that doesn't seem to have a huge financial component to it.
Chicago has to be seen as the winner of this deal right now. Frolik should blend nicely in a top six that features Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.
Jack Skille will get a chance to play on the top two lines in Florida. He brings a physical presence. If his offensive skills continue to develop and he starts to play more responsibly this deal could seem much more even in a couple of years.
Florida certainly gets more physical in a hurry, especially if Jessiman gets an early NHL tryout.
The Florida Panthers and Dale Tallon are open for business and ready to deal. Those are both good things for a team like Florida that has been out of the playoffs for as long as they have. Is this the right deal for Florida to make? It doesn't look good right now.