When an NHL season does eventually start, the Chicago Blackhawks will face a somewhat tough decision regarding Michael Frolik. And depending on how the new CBA shakes out, it's a decision that may not be as easy as initially thought.
Frolik has had a couple of disappointing seasons in Chicago after signing a nice three-year deal that has him making just over $2 million a year. His offensive production hasn't even come close to what the Hawks had hoped they were acquiring, with just eight goals in 91 games in Chicago after back-to-back 20-goal campaigns with the Florida Panthers.
Frolik's shooting percentage last year was four. Four percent. That's not a typo. In the NHL, you're not expected to have an extremely high shooting percentage, but four is rough for a guy with the offensive touch that Frolik is supposed to have. So was he just unlucky, or did he botch an opportunity every time the puck was on his stick? Certainly a combination of both.
Even with his offensive inefficiencies, Frolik still has value. He's a very good defensive forward and he has a penchant for stepping up in big moments in the playoffs, as we've seen the last two years. Of course, that hasn't saved him from the Joel Quenneville doghouse.
With two years left on his deal, the Blackhawks may be at a crossroads with Frolik. They essentially have three options prior to a new season starting: keep him, trade him, or attempt to bury him.
They can keep Frolik. Consider this his make-or-break season and give him some consistent playing time, and perhaps some consistency with his linemates. See where it goes. Maybe he can regain some of that offensive touch.
If not, trade him. He won't bring a great return, but teams are willing to take on a young player with unrealized potential, as a "change-of-scenery" candidate. And his contract looks like a bargain, given the current economic landscape around the league.
Burying him, a la Cristobal Huet, could prove to be difficult. If the new CBA leads AHL salary to count against the salary cap, as was discussed at one point, burying his contract while he plays in Rockford or Europe could be pointless.
When all is said and done, the Hawks will likely give Frolik a final shot, and that's the correct route to go. There are elements to his game that make him valuable, and providing him with some consistency around him could go a long way towards helping him find some for the Hawks this next season. Of course, while the front office may keep him around, that doesn't necessarily mean Coach Q will allow him to run free of the doghouse every night.