Amid all of the rumors and speculation, which will likely pick up here in the next couple of weeks, the Chicago Blackhawks did make a real move on Friday afternoon.
The team agreed to a new one-year contract with forward Jamal Mayers, which will pay him $600,000. Mayers was one of several older veterans the Hawks brought in last summer to add sandpaper to their lineup. And he may have been the best of them all, at least during the regular season.
Mayers didn’t put up big points during the regular season, with just 15, but he wasn’t expected to. Mayers was brought in to provide veteran leadership, add a physical presence to the lineup, and kill penalties. He did all of that as well as anyone could have expected him to.
Where Mayers really proved to be an asset was on the penalty kill. He helped a unit that was inconsistent throughout the season and will likely contribute there again next year. He spent some games on the wing, even spending time up in the top six on occasion, while also manning the middle plenty as well.
He was surprisingly good in the middle, having played wing for much of his career, but described himself as a “natural center” when he signed with the Hawks. Mayers took well over 500 draws on the season, winning them at a 56 percent clip, second best on the team behind Jonathan Toews.
The signing of Jamal Mayers is a great one, no doubt about it. He’s cheap and adds that gritty presence that can drop the gloves if needed, while winning draws with more regularity with anyone not named Toews. But at the same time, it’s a signing that is a bit puzzling.
The Hawks’ need isn’t really on the fourth line. They have plenty of players that they can throw down there, meaning Mayers may not see action in every game during the regular season, similar to when he was scratched for the last three games of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nonetheless, the 38-year-old Mayers will be a great presence in a locker room that apparently needs it, and will be a nice guy to have in the lineup against the teams like the St. Louis Blues or Vancouver Canucks. At least it makes more sense than the Dan Carcillo signing.