A year ago, even considering thinking about such a thing would have been blasphemy. Many wondered if Viktor Stalberg had a future with the Chicago Blackhawks and would even make it through the cheap, two-year deal he signed last summer.
Not that you can blame them. Stalberg was plain old bad in his first year with the Hawks. Still very raw, Stalberg didn’t contribute much of anything, other than being able to skate really fast.
This season, we saw a complete turnaround from Stalberg. He wasn’t without the mental mistakes and regular visits to Joel Quenneville‘s doghouse, but Stalberg established himself as a legitimate threat on offense.
He used his speed more effectively to set up more scoring chances, as well as his size. Stalberg demolished his point total from 2010-2011, jumping from 24 in his first year with the Hawks, up to 43 points this past season. That included 22 goals, after picking it up in the second half of the season.
Stalberg still has a ways to go in his development, namely shooting around the goaltender, rather than the logo, and avoiding the dumb penalties. But he’s a legitimate source of secondary scoring on a team that desperately needs it.
If Stalberg can stay out of the Coach Q doghouse and maybe see a bit of time on the power pla, he could take another step in becoming a big time scoring threat in this league. Which is why the Hawks might want to consider looking into extending his current deal this summer.
Stalberg is in the second, and final, year of his contract. Another season like this last one, and he could price himself out of Chicago like we’ve seen so many “role” players do. Players like Andrew Ladd or Kris Versteeg have proven in the past to be too expensive for the Hawks blood as “role players”, only to go on and become key pieces for their new club.
They don’t need to sign him to an absurd deal to the tune of five or six years, but bringing him back for two or three years beyond next season might prove to be a good move for the Hawks. He’s making six figures now, and signing him sooner, rather than later, could keep his salary more in the neighborhood of a bargain, especially in the current market.
He’ll have to prove quickly he can bring that sort of game consistently next season, but if he does, extending Stalberg’s contract for an extra couple of years could end up being a very smart move by Stan Bowman.