Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell has wisely decided that this isn't the best time for him to sit around. With his standing on the roster less solid than some of his higher-priced teammates, this is one player who needs to stay sharp.
The 26-year-old Bickell has signed to play for HC Znojmo of the Austrian League for the next month. Bickell joins teammates Michael Frolik and Michal Rozsival in Europe, though he is the first North American native on the 'Hawks to head overseas.
Players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp are still weighing their options right now. They may do so well into November. If Bickell's spot on the team was as solid as the aforementioned players, he could also afford to wait. However, that just isn't the case.
Bickell is the type of player hurt most by the lockout, being a guy who is making near the league minimum salary in the final year of his contract. He needs to be playing to maximize his small window of earning power as well as to keep whatever hold on the roster he has right now.
Having completed his second season in 2011-12, Bickell was not the force around the net many fans through he would be after a 17-goal rookie campaign. Bickell was a healthy scratch by coach Joel Quenneville on many nights in the middle of the season.
Bickell is gunning for a permanent home on the checking line, having clicked with Frolik and Dave Bolland there at times last season. The last thing he needs is a host of young guns getting a head start on him in the AHL.
While Bickell waits for an end to the lockout, players like Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Saad and even a guy like Kyle Beach could make a case for Bickell's spot. Playing hockey in Europe serves Bickell twofold. He stays in game shape, ready to fend off challenges for his spot. He also gets paid to do so.
This was potentially a big season for the 6'4", 233-pound wing. Bickell would be a UFA if there is action in 2012-13. A rebound from last year's nine-goal, 15-assist effort would draw interest, be it from the 'Hawks or another organization.
Bickell can't afford to sit home waiting for a call to return to NHL rinks. Instead, he's has opted to take that call long distance.
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