Corey Crawford

Blackhawks walk-away from Campoli, defenseman becomes unrestricted free agent

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The writing has been on the wall ever since the Blackhawks went out and acquired Sami Lepisto: Chris Campoli’s brief tenure in Chicago was coming to an end. After going through the perfunctory exercise of an arbitration hearing, the Blackhawks officially announced they are walking away from Campoli and the 1-year, $2.5 million contract the arbitrator awarded the defenseman. The team had publically stated that they were working diligently to reach a deal with the 27-year-old defenseman—but those plans feel by the wayside as the two-sides couldn’t agree to terms.

Campoli amassed 4 goals and 17 assists last year in 77 games for the Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks. In fact, the Campoli acquisition was one Bowman’s major moves at the trade deadline in hopes of sparking another long playoff run the Hawks. In 19 games in the Windy City, he had a goal and 7 points. He was never going to be a superstar while playing behind guys like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, but he still managed to be dependable player for the Hawks during his short stay. He averaged over 19 minutes per game, spent time on both the power play and penalty kill, and saw important minutes in the playoffs as well. Unfortunately for both sides, they couldn’t agree on his role going forward.

General manager Stan Bowman explained the difference of opinion:

“It was apparent from the beginning that their salary demands were not in concert with where we see him fitting in our team,” Bowman said last week. “We tried to work it out with Chris. We went back and forth and made him our best offer and it didn’t work for them.”

Judging by the Sami Lepisto acquisition, the Blackhawks have already moved forward with the offseason. Lepisto’s 4 goals and 16 points with the Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets last year were similar to Campoli’s output with the Sens/Hawks. The major difference is Lepisto agreed to a one-year contract with only $750,000. For a team that is looking at the salary cap, almost $2 million is a huge difference for players with comparable production. This decision will give Bowman a bit of flexibility going into the season—something every general manager would like to have. It’s particularly impressive considering the Hawks already have eight defenseman under contract for next season. Yes, we’re considering John Scott an actual defenseman.

For Campoli, the future isn’t as clear as it is for the Hawks. The young blueliner will now scramble for a job after most teams have completed their major offseason shopping. Thankfully for him, the two-sides were able to move his hearing up to July 20th (originally set for August 4th) so he’ll have more time to look for a new gig. Not only will he need to find a team that is looking for a defenseman—he needs to find a team that can afford a new defenseman.

To start the speculation: a team like the New York Islanders would be a decent fit. He spent the first four years of his NHL career with the Isles before a mid-season trade sent him to Ottawa in 2009. In 2005-06, he posted careers bests with 9 goals and 25 assists in 80 games. Unfortunately for both Campoli and the Isles, his rookie year turned out to be the high-water mark of his career thus far. Perhaps the former 7th round draft pick would be able to recapture the magic that had Campoli as one of the rising young defensemen in the league.

We’ll keep track of the story as Campoli looks for his next employer.

Pre-game reading: NHLers sound off on poor ice conditions

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— Up top, Danny Briere recalls that famous line brawl between the Flyers and Penguins in the 2012 playoffs. The two Pennsylvania rivals meet again Saturday, outdoors at Heinz Field.

— It has not been a good year for NHL ice, and a number of players are starting to get fed up. For example, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who said, “It’s been awful. I don’t know what it is. Even in our building this year. I thought it was really good [when we came] back for World Cup and right after that for the first little bit. But the last little bit, it’s been so bad. The puck’s all over the place.” Guess we know how he’ll be filling out his survey. (ESPN)

— The days leading up to the trade deadline can be pretty stressful for players who may get moved. And if they do get moved, the days after can be pretty tough, too. “I saw my daughters four days out of three months when I went to Pittsburgh,” said Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak, who’s been dealt three straight years at the deadline. “When I was traded to Winnipeg, I didn’t see my daughters for the two months or more I was there because of the schedule.” (The News & Observer)

— On the 2017 NHL draft, which may not have the star power of the last two drafts, but will still have some pretty good players available. Especially centers. (USA Today)

— San Jose’s Brent Burns is trying to become only the second defenseman in NHL history to win a scoring title. With 64 points, Burns is only three points back of Connor McDavid for the league lead, with Sidney Crosby in the mix as well. Bobby Orr won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the last time in 1974-75 when he piled up 135 points in 80 games for the Boston Bruins.  (Canadian Press)

— Another Shark, Joe Thornton, is just two assists from 1,000 in the NHL. Only 12 players have accomplished that, with Wayne Gretzky’s 1,963 helpers leading the way. Joe Sakic’s 1,016 are the closest to Thornton’s 998. (The Mercury News)

Enjoy the games!

Bolts rule out Callahan indefinitely following second hip surgery

Ryan Callahan
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Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan, who’s only played 18 games this year while recovering from offseason hip surgery, has undergone a follow-up procedure and will be sidelined indefinitely.

The Bolts made the announcement on Wednesday, just hours after a big 4-1 win over Edmonton. Callahan wasn’t in the lineup to face the Oilers — he hasn’t played since early January, when he skated just under 15 minutes in a loss to Philly.

The nature of this ailment has to be concerning.

Callahan, who turns 32 next month, is in the third of a six-year, $34.8 million deal with a $5.8M average annual cap hit. And this lingering hip problem comes on the heels of a disappointing ’15-16 campaign, in which Callahan scored just 10 goals and 28 points — the lowest marks since his rookie campaign.

As such, Tampa Bay is now bracing for an immediate future without a huge part of its leadership group. Captain Steve Stamkos has resumed skating, but there’s no set date for his return from major knee surgery.

Callahan, who’s been an alternate captain in each of the last three seasons, won’t be playing anytime soon either.

 

Kadri ‘not worried’ after Chiarot predicts revenge for big hit (Video)

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Toronto forward Nazem Kadri drew the ire of Jets d-man Ben Chiarot on Tuesday night for a big — albeit questionable — hit in the Leafs’ OT win.

Chiarot was visibly displeased following the game and alluded to getting even.

“It’s not the right time or place to chase him down, but there will be a time down the line,” he said, per Sportsnet. “Might not be this year, might not be next year.

“But there will be a time where the shoe will be on the other foot.”

Today, Kadri responded.

“I’m not worried at all,” Kadri said, per TSN. “I’ll be here for hopefully a few years. But like I said, if that was one of my teammates getting hit like that, I probably wouldn’t be too happy, so I expect that kind of reaction.”

Kadri’s hit, which went unpenalized, drew the ire of Chiarot’s head coach as well. Jets bench boss Paul Maurice was also visibly displeased following the game.

“He’s six inches in the air when he makes contact,” Maurice said, per Sportsnet. “In my mind, from the rear view, the first thing that moves on Benny is the helmet. Didn’t like it.”

Kadri’s been involved in a few high-profile collisions this season. He pasted Sabres captain Brian Gionta in a game earlier this month, and avoided suspension for a controversial hit on Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin back in November.

Have the Blackhawks finally found their first-line LW?

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A three-point night for Nick Schmaltz, which included a nifty pass to Jonathan Toews for the game-winner, must have Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wondering how to approach the trade deadline.

The way the 20-year-old rookie has been playing, does Bowman really need to add a first-line left winger before next Wednesday?

It’s a valid question. Only a month ago, Bowman was reportedly sniffing around the likes of Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist.

But Schmaltz has since caught fire, with two goals and five assists in his last six games. The rookie from Wisconsin had one goal and two assists in Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over Minnesota.

“He’s been really good,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Tuesday] was the most we’ve ever seen him with the puck. I don’t know how many times he evaded coverage, and all of a sudden he loses the guy on him and a play develops. That play against the grain to [Toews] was spectacular.”

Toews, of course, has been through a whole host of linemates this season, and only in the last month has the captain really started to produce offensively. Richard Panik and Marian Hossa are two veteran options to skate on his right side, but the left side has been a running audition.

Schmaltz, a first-round draft pick in 2014, only got called back up to the NHL in mid-January.

One month later, Toews is liking the chemistry that’s developed between himself, Schmaltz and Panik.

“We’ve been given the chance to spend a few games together, get some consistency, get some feel and some confidence,” said Toews. “The biggest thing for the three of us is if we go through a game without scoring, we’re given a chance to go out in the next game and try and redeem ourselves and contribute offensively.

“It’s a lot of fun, because I think we’re feeling it. [Schmaltz and Panik] are playing so well at both ends of the rink. They’re playing with a ton of confidence with the puck.”

The ‘Hawks have two games left before the March 1 deadline. They host Arizona tomorrow and St. Louis Sunday.