Teams have been scrambling like crazy since July 1st to lock up the best free agents available. While the Chicago Blackhawks have made their own fair share of deals since then, like signing Dan Carcillo and Sean O'Donnell, they still have a lot of work to do. But they don't have a lot of cap space to work with.
The arbitration of Chris Campoli is scheduled for early August. Negotiations with Michael Frolik are still in the works, as he was ineligible to file for arbitration.
The Blackhawks have a lot of depth in their Rockford team, but many of these players are still very young and inexperienced. They should look for mentors for these young players and for some to serve necessary roles—if only for a season—while the prospects mature. There are many great players out there who could fill this mentor void or add additional muscle.
Andrew Desjardins(left) and Jarkko Ruutu (right)
2010-2011 Stats: 3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points, 97 PIM (73 games)
Why: The signing of Dan Carcillo brought some much-needed muscle back into the Blackhawks's lineup, but it also brought conflict. Last season, Ruutu posted double the amount of points Carcillo did (12 vs. 6) and had 30 less PIM (97 vs. 127). He would add muscle to this lineup but with less conflict.
Ruutu is not afraid to drop the gloves. He is well-known around the league as a tough player. Ruutu is great at getting under the skin of opposing players and riling up an audience.
Ruutu is the kind of player you would love to have on your side but hate to play against.
The depth chart on the Hawks's site shows John Scott playing right wing on the fourth line, a role Ruutu might better fill.
He will be 36 when next season rolls around, but he is generally a very healthy player and could add some experience to the young Hawks team.
His last contract was three years at $3,900,000, so signing him would not take a huge hit out of the cap.
2010-2011 Teams: Ottawa Senators, traded to Chicago Blackhawks
2010-2011 Stats: 4 goals, 17 assists, 21 points, plus-0 (77 games)
Status: RFA (player-elected arbitration set for August 3rd)
Why: With the loss of Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers, the Blackhawks still need a puck-moving defenseman. Retaining him will help improve their transition game, something the 'Hawks had problems with last season.
Campoli can fill the need of a defense partner for the talented, young Nick Leddy, who many expect to have an expanded role now that Brian Campbell is gone. The depth chart on the Blackhawks' website has Leddy and Campoli paired together as the third defense pair.
2010-2011 Team: St. Louis Blues
2010-2011 Stats: 8 wins, 8 losses, 4 ties, 3.3 GAA
Why: The backup goaltender to Corey Crawford is Alexander Salak, a 24-year-old goaltender from the Swedish Elite League. He has played two NHL games, both in the 2009-2010 season, for the Florida Panthers.
Conklin could make a good mentor for the young Salak, with 200 NHL games under his belt, including three outdoor games. Conklin was credited with mentoring a young Marc Andre-Fleury and significantly improving his playing.
However, Conklin could also rival for the No. 2 spot. Either way, signing him would be a really smart move for the Blackhawks.
If he didn't make the roster for the Blackhawks, he could always mentor the young goalies in the Rockford system.
2010-2011 Team: Chicago Blackhawks
2010-2011 Stats: 11 goals, 27 assists, 38 points, plus-2 (80 games)
Why: Frolik will definitely be seeing more action this year, as he has proven he can both set up goals and score his own.
He is only 23, so he could be a fixture on the Hawks for years to come—something that would be welcome.
What he lacks in speed, he more than makes up for in skill.
With 241 games under his belt in only three NHL seasons, he could make a great mentor to Ben Smith or whichever one of the talented offensive players comes up through Rockford.
His consistent offensive production is a great thing, and the Blackhawks should aim to keep him on their roster.
Note: Am I the only one who thinks that in his picture on the Blackhawks's website, he looks like Ashton Kutcher?
2010-2011 Team: Calgary Flames
2010-2011 Stats: 9 goals, 34 assists, 43 points, plus-13 (66 games)
Why: The Blackhawks need another center, plain and simple. Last year, they were fourth in the NHL in faceoff percentage, mostly thanks to Jonathan Toews. Patrick Sharp is more of a winger than a centerman, so the addition of Morrison would allow Sharpie to focus on goal scoring rather than setting them up.
He averaged about 16 minutes per game last season, so he could make a great second-line center.
He would add some veteran experience and could help the 'Hawks improve their faceoff game with an almost 50 percent faceoff percentage—second on the Calgary team—and higher than any regular center for the Blackhawks besides Toews.
His 34 assists show he can make plays that result in goals—something that is always welcome.
He will be starting the season off of his March knee surgery, but he should be ready to play by then. People have come back from much worse injuries in a lot less time.