The Chicago Blackhawks are obviously flying very high right now. They’re just a game away from tying the record for most consecutive games with a point to start a season, as their streak currently stands at 15. But briefly looking ahead to next season, the future of one current Hawk remains up in the air: Viktor Stalberg.
It’s been fun to watch the transition of Stalberg from raw scapegoat to solid role player for the Chicago Blackhawks. He came over from the Toronto Maple Leafs as one of the few players actually brought in after the Great Salary Dump of 2010. And his first season was a rough one.
Stalberg didn’t do much of anything, nor did he show much of anything skill-wise, outside of his blazing speed. Fast forward to today, and it’s a different story entirely. While his hands do have a tendency to look a little stony at times, his overall game has improved by miles.
Playing over in the right wing has proven to be a benefit for Stalberg. He’s playing well in his new spot on the third line, using that speed to his advantage and create opportunities in the offensive zone. That’s something that he wasn’t doing when he first came over to the Blackhawks.
Right now, he’s still making six figures, after signing a two-year deal in 2011. For a guy that scored 20 goals last season, that’s a bargain. He’s an important piece of what the Hawks are trying to accomplish right now and is a key role player. But is he going to be too pricey for the Hawks to consider keeping beyond this season, when his contract expires?
That is going to be the multi-million dollar question that the Blackhawks front office has to answer. Will they let Stalberg walk, potentially on to future success, like we’ve previously seen several former role players do? Or will Stalberg take a reasonable contract on a discount and attempt to stick around?
There’s no sure answer. What we do know is that Viktor Stalberg has become a very solid player in his time with the Hawks. His initial raw skills have developed and there is much more to his game than speed, though his blazing speed is a fantastic asset in this lineup. Whether or not the Hawks want to make him a part of the long term plan, or hope that someone down with the Rockford Icehogs can bring a similar skill set to the table next year, we’ll have to wait this summer to find out.