Blackhawks Sign Joe Lavin, Raise Questions About Blue Line’s Future

On Monday the Chicago Blackhawks announced that they had signed defenseman Joe Lavin to a two-year contract, beginning in the 2011-12 season. He had been the captain at Notre Dame, who just lost to eventual NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth at the Frozen Four.

So what does this mean to the Blackhawks blue line?

Consider the players the Blackhawks have in the NHL right now:

  • Duncan Keith
  • Brent Seabrook
  • Brian Campbell
  • Niklas Hjalmarsson
  • Nick Leddy

Now consider that GM Stan Bowman indicated when he traded for Chris Campoli that the Hawks had interest in keeping the soon-to-be restricted free agent around longer than a few weeks. Even without Campoli, the Blackhawks have five very capable NHL defensemen under contract for next year.

However, the blue line in Rockford is getting crowded. Look at the kids under contract in the Blackhawks’ system:

  • Lavin (6-2, 200)
  • Dylan Olsen (6-3, 220)
  • Shawn LaLonde (6-1, 195)
  • Ryan Stanton (6-2, 205)
  • Jonathan Carlsson (6-1, 195)

There is something else these five prospects share in common: NHL cap numbers under $1M per season.

This list doesn’t include Brian Connelly, the IceHogs representative at the AHL All-Star Game this year. He, like Campoli, is a restricted free agent after this season. Also restricted this summer is Ivan Vishnevskiy.

The five minor league players all could probably use more time developing in Rockford. But one, Lalonde, was very impressive skating with Leddy at the Hawks’ Prospect Camp last year and ranked second among Rockford defensemen in points this year (behind Connelly).

Campoli is coming off a season in which he made just $1.4M. He blocked 91 shots, was credited with 99 hits, scored four goals and added 17 assists. He averaged 20:34 on ice in March, and 19:11 in April.

Hjalmarsson is coming off a season in which he made $3.5M. He blocked 166 shots, was credited with 46 hits, scored three goals and added seven assists. He averaged 16:45 on ice in March, and 15:30 in April.

I’m not trying to imply anything by putting the numbers of these two defensemen next to each other, but….

The addition of Lavin adds to a stockpile of talented players on the blue line in Rockford. With a decision needing to be made regarding Connelly this summer, and the new deal for Seabrook hitting the books next fall, someone on the current roster might not be back.

One thought on “Blackhawks Sign Joe Lavin, Raise Questions About Blue Line’s Future

  • April 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I completely agree, Hammer has to get moved this offseason. It wasn’t a bad decision to give in to the Shark’s scheme and sign Hammer to the relatively big contract this past offseason. He had quite a stellar run late in the 08-09 season and really helped carry an extremely fatigued defensive corp to the Western Conference finals. He returned with a very solid first full season last year solidifying the top 4 and leading to the cup. All before his 23rd birthday. The 3.5M for 4 years wasn’t so much about the value he had brought to the Hawks, but about what he could potentially bring. Unfortunately, hes regressed significantly this year and we no longer have the financial flexibility to pay for potential. Some team is going to get a pretty darn good young defenseman (not the next Lidstrom, sorry Scotty) because the Hawks just can’t afford him.

    My concern, however, is that our up and coming defensemen can’t step in and replace what Hammer does. Leddy (after a pretty craptastic first 9 games) has shown that he can play at this level and Campoli has been very impressive (if hes not Campbell-lite, I don’t know what is). But, how many puck movers can we fit on this team? Someone has to play positionally, someone has to play the PK, someone has to be the solid defensive pairing that allows these puck movers to take the chances that make them so dangerous.

    LaLonde isn’t that guy, hes Leddy-lite. Plus he really needs another year at Rockford. Olsen, Stanton, and Lavin could be those guys one day, but they each need at the very least 1 more year at Rockford, most likely 2 or 3. Also, does UM-D’s NCAA victory without the flunky take some shine off of Olsen’s excellent first half of the year? Or was there any shine left after his horrendous WJC showing and difficult transition to Rockford? Carlsson isn’t that guy and he won’t even be under consideration for the team until he has a productive year in North America.

    So, removing Hammer leaves us with only 1 defensive defenseman. Do we try to fit square pegs into round holes and end up with a godawful penalty kill that leaves our team behind the 8 ball on many nights and our top players to expend their energy on hard PK minutes, thereby leaving them drained during even strength play?

    Or do we try to fill out the bottom D with veterans who can block shots and play positionally sound defense, allowing our puck movers to take chances? For as much crap as he got, Brent Sopel played the role in 09-10 that we just weren’t able to fill this year. No, Boynton and Janssen weren’t the veteran answer, they are AHL players, but there has to be a few guys out there that can fill the role for ~$1M.

    I’ve said it before, but Weiss and Weaver would really cure what ails the Hawks in terms of a true #2 center and a guy that can replace Hammer for under $1M. I wouldn’t mind overpaying in minor league talent/draft picks at all for them.

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