NHL lockout -- Theatre of the Absurd

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NHL lockout -- Theatre of the Absurd

Brian Campbells face showed more skepticism than optimism after Wednesdays skate with his former Blackhawks teammates. The defenseman, speaking before the NHL and NHLPA went through a marathon negotiation in New York City that seemed to yield progress, wasnt getting too giddy.

Yeah, I dont know. I dont want to get too far ahead, Campbell said. Ive gotten caught up in that, personally, thinking somethings going to happen. Its just kind of wait-and-see.

Its a wise outlook, considering how this whole collective-bargaining debacle has gone. Its truly been the Theatre of the Absurd: One day things are looking happy, perky, then 24 hours later the two sides are barely talking to each other. Case in point, the NHL and NHLPAs talks Wednesday and Thursday. After having several hours worth of seemingly meaningful negotiations on Wednesday (and into early Thursday), each side kept to itself on Thursday.

As CSNPhillys Tim Panacchio reports from New York, it was more of a day of potential litigation than of negotiation and mediation. It started when the league apparently changed language regarding hockey-related revenue after Wednesdays talks. Reportedly, that all got straightened out. But that apparently left angry feelings. The NHLPA, which didnt go through with its first disclaimer of interest by Wednesdays 11:59 p.m. (ET) deadline, gave players the chance to vote on another one. The union also went to court in the attempt to get the NHLs suit, which was filed the same day the NHLPA told players they would get to vote on that first disclaimer of interest.

Oh, and in the midst of all this legalese, the two sides will meet again tomorrow around 10 a.m. ET, the league told reporters in New York.

Confused yet? Annoyed yet? Dont answer that second one; we already know. Again, welcome to the Theatre of the Absurd, Act oh, weve lost track. For every high moment theres been a low moment; or more like a huh? moment.

So the saga continues. Ive been asked many times if I think there will be hockey this season. Yes, I do. To apply NHL deputy commissioner Bill Dalys infamous quote to my stance, that prediction is the hill I will die on. But its easy to understand why many have thrown their hands up in disgust and are tempted, not only to close their hearts to NHL hockey, but their wallets as well.

Campbells outlook is a smart one. Dont get too up or down, because the emotion will change quicker than the NHL & NHLPAs meeting plans.

Some call these highs, lows, actions and inactions just part of negotiations. Ill stick with absurd.

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Those tremors you felt Wednesday was the hockey world shaking things up.

They were the most exciting 30 minutes of offseason we’ve seen in some time, with the Montreal Canadiens sending P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber and Edmonton trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. Oh, and coveted potential unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending teams like Toronto, Detroit and Buffalo to their Plan Bs.

For the Blackhawks, they weren’t players for any of the top-tier guys. But with the free-agent “frenzy” about to begin on Friday, the Blackhawks, who have a little shopping to do, can’t get caught in the ripple effect.

Most of the top UFAs are already off the board, from Stamkos to Keith Yandle to Alex Goligoski. Prices could go up on those remaining, and that could include some guys the Blackhawks were targeting.

As general manager Stan Bowman said last Saturday following the NHL Draft, the Blackhawks no longer have a salary-cap problem. Generalfanager.com shows the Blackhawks have a little more than $5 million in cap space. That’s after the Blackhawks made two cap friendly re-signings with forward Brandon Mashinter and defenseman Michal Rozsival. According to Pierre LeBrun, Mashinter and Rozsival will earn $575,00 and $600,000, respectively, this season.

So the Blackhawks enter the weekend with some spending cash, and they may be spending some of it immediately on a familiar guy. Andy Strickland reported on Thursday that Brian Campbell, who was part of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, could return on a one-year deal. Nothing would be official until Friday, when free agency begins.

If Campbell does return it probably won’t be for much cash. But Campbell knows the Blackhawks are still built to win and he won’t be hurting for money. It could be another sensible move like Brad Richards from the summer of 2014. Richards, just bought out by the New York Rangers after the team’s trip to the Stanley Cup final, just wanted to get back to the final. He signed a one-year deal worth $2 million here. While Richards was up and down in the regular season he was great in the playoffs, capping the Blackhawks’ Cup run with that beautiful pass to Patrick Kane in Game 6. The Blackhawks aren’t what they were in 2014 but they’re not in bad shape, either. A good, affordable tweak or two could have them thinking about another lengthy postseason run.

Keep something else in mind: just about every July the Blackhawks pick up someone we didn’t anticipate. Richards was a good example of that, too.

The Blackhawks have a little cash to spend but they also have future considerations; please see Artemi Panarin, who the Blackhawks can start negotiating with on Friday. It’s not just about what they spend this season, it’s about what they save for that potential deal that would start next season.

The options are out there to improve this team but the Blackhawks have to be prudent. They can’t afford not to be.

Report: Brian Campbell likely to rejoin Blackhawks

Report: Brian Campbell likely to rejoin Blackhawks

Free agency officially begins Friday at 11 a.m. CT, but all signs point to Brian Campbell rejoining the Blackhawks for the 2016-17 season.

It's been widely rumored that the 37-year-old defenseman has been open to a return to Chicago, where he helped bring a Stanley Cup to in 2010 and still resides in the offseason. 

The latest report comes from Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest, saying Campbell is likely to sign a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. 

This comes less than a day after Campbell told the Chicago Tribune that he's willing to take a hometown discount if it meant playing for the Blackhawks, a team that ranks No. 1 on his list.

If reports turn out to be true, Campbell immediately gives the Blackhawks a top-four defenseman and alleviates some of the pressure off the bottom pairing, such as Trevor van Riemsdyk, who was asked to take on a larger role last season.

Blackhawks re-sign Brandon Mashinter, Michal Rozsival to one-year deals

Blackhawks re-sign Brandon Mashinter, Michal Rozsival to one-year deals

The Blackhawks have agreed to bring back forward Brandon Mashinter and defenseman Michal Rozsival on one-year deals, the team announced Thursday.

It's a $575,000 cap hit for Mashinter and $600,000 for Rozsival, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun. 

Mashinter, 27, scored four goals and one assist in 41 regular-season games during his first year with the Blackhawks last season. Rozsival, 37, registered one goal and 12 assists in 51 games last year.

The moves give the Blackhawks cheap depth up front and on the back end along with flexibility heading into free agency, which officially opens at 11 a.m. CT on Friday.

With the signings, the Blackhawks now had 19 players (10 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders) under contract for the 2016-17 season. They have $5.215 million in cap space to fill out the rest of the roster, per generalfanager.com.