The unfortunate events of last summer, which are now being described as the Great Chicago Fire Sale, took their toll on fans and players all over the board. Losing key players such as Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd were a key contributor in the early struggles of the Blackhawks this season.
While nothing close to the level of selling the Hawks had to do is likely to be repeated this summer, there is going to be turnover. Guys like Troy Brouwer, Tomas Kopecky, and Jake Dowell are all free agents, and may not all be back.
But one guy holding restricted free agent status this summer is certainly making himself a key cog in the Blackhawks machine, and it could mean a future with the Chicago organization.
Since Michael Frolik came over from the Florida Panthers, he’s shown flashes of being an offensive force on the second line for the Hawks. Frolik was dealt to Chicago in the trade that sent Jack Skille and minor leaguers to the Panthers, with the Hawks also netting goaltender Alexander Salak as part of that deal.
The trade didn’t immediately translate to goals for the Blackhawks, but Frolik was noticeable at both ends of the ice. He was a playmaker on the offensive side of the ice and contributed on the defensive side.
The game against Calgary on March 2nd is when Frolik burst onto the scene for Chicago, with his three point outburst against the Flames, including his first Hawks goal. He followed that up with another goal three days later, against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While his six points and a minus-4 may not seem too stellar, consider the fact that Frolik has played just 19 games with the Hawks. Of those 19, the Blackhawks have lost just three in regulation, and only five overall. That’s no coincidence.
Part of what makes Frolik so valuable to the Hawks is his versatility. Capable of playing both center and wing, Frolik has solidified the second line center spot in the absence of Dave Bolland.
He’s also started to develop chemistry with his linemates, as evident by Wednesday night’s win over his former club, the Panthers. Centering the line of Marian Hossa and Kopecky, the three forced a veteran goaltender like Tomas Vokoun so far out of his net that Kopecky was able to net a nearly empty net goal. Pat Foley described it as “three way Slovakian passing beauty”.
Get used to it Blackhawk fans.
Outside of Corey Crawford, Frolik is making a case to become a top priority for the Blackhawks this season. With a price tag that shouldn’t be too excessive, given his limited time in the NHL, the skill and versatility of Frolik should make for an easy decision for Stan Bowman to make this summer.