The 2013 Stanley Cup Finals begins tonight in Chicago. The Chicago Blackhawks will face the Boston Bruins in a series that is expected to be close matched. While the postseason has been exciting, two players for the Blackhawks that are heading in opposite directions are Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg. While Bickell has gained attention for his postseason work, Stalberg has been in Coach Joel Quenneville's dog house twice this postseason. Stalberg is likely to sit in Game 1 after wearing the white practice jersey on Tuesday. Brandon Bollig likely will fill his spot. Both Bickell and Stalberg are unrestricted free agents this offseason.
GM Stan Bowman talked about Bryan Bickell yesterday during media day.
"We obviously want him to remain with us. We’re going to do our best to do that,” Bowman said. “I think Bryan likes it here. He’s made comments that way; he enjoys playing on our team. He’s found a nice role. Certainly the coaches have confidence in him. As a player, that’s something they all talk about; finding the right situation for a player is important. He serves a nice role for us and he’s respected by his teammates. There are a lot of positives for him and we want to bring him back.”
Bickell, who had 9 goals during the regular season, has notched 8 playoff goals and has been elevated to the top line at times. While Bryan Bickell's production has likely sealed him a increase from his $600,00 salary this offseason, Bowman sounds confident he will be retained. Stalberg, on the other hand, is skating on thin ice with the Blackhawks. Stalberg notched 9 goals in the regular season, but hasn't scored all postseason. Stalberg's received the white practice jersey twice by Joel Quenneville. Stalberg's displeasure is becoming more and more evident. Stalberg also is likely to receive a raise from his $850,000 salary next year. The chances of the Blackhawks retaining him though are slim. With defenseman Nick Leddy due a raise and the salary cap lowering in the 2013-2014 season, the chances of both Stalberg and Bickell remaining with Blackhawks isn't good.
While Stan Bowman said there won't be severe payroll cuts like after the 2010 Stanley Cup team, he didn't mention any strong desire to keep Stalberg like he did Bickell.
“It’s been a process for Brian,” Bowman said. “I look back at his career; it’s taken time for him to realize his potential and I give him credit for sticking with it. We’ve worked hard with him. We spent a lot of time over the years developing him and having conversations with him on ways to improve. He’s done the hard work, we’ve worked with him and now we’re seeing that pay off. It’s certainly rewarding for everybody when he’s been able to contribute this way. He helps us in a lot of ways and there’s a lot to like.”
“We’re in a much better place now than we were at that time. We had a unique scenario back then when our three best players were getting significant increases at the same time. We don’t have that phenomenon now. Certainly, we have some players whose contracts are up and will get increases. But when you’re going from $900,000 to $6 million and you have three guys doing that, that’s a really big jump. So we don’t have that.”
So while Bryan Bickell is enduring himself to Blackhawk fans with his stellar postseason play, Viktor Stalberg is just trying to get himself back on the ice. Quenneville may be trying to motivate Stalberg and in my opinion his speed will be missed. However it works out both players are going to get paid this offseason. The question is will it be in Chicago?
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