The Chicago Blackhawks have been an active organization over the last few days. A win in the final Stadium Series contest of the season, the trading of Brandon Pirri, prospect Jeremy Morin being named CCM/AHL Player Of The Month for February and Marian Hossa's upper-body injury are noteworthy items.
However, the contract extension given to fourth-liner Brandon Bollig may be the hottest topic of conversation among 'Hawks fans at the moment. Monday's announcement left a slew of mouths agape.
Chicago revealed on the team website Monday morning that Bollig had been signed to a three-year, $3.75 million extension beginning next season. The 27-year-old forward would have been an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2013-14 campaign but is now locked up by general manager Stan Bowman.
The collective response of Blackhawks fans seems to be: why?
Bollig is one of the more polarizing figures on the roster, not so much for his limited skills, but for his inclusion in the lineup over seemingly better players. While players like Morin and the recently departed Pirri can't crack the lineup, Bollig has been a mainstay in the box score this season.
According to capgeek.com, Bollig is currently making $575,000. His salary more than doubles next season. The obvious question here is simple: What has the guy done to merit the big raise?
A team trying to maintain championship form in the long term is always going to have trouble making it work from a salary cap standpoint. Why compound money issues to overpay for a 10-minute per night skater?
Bollig earned his spot on the team largely with his fists last season. He has made some strides in honing the part of his game played with his gloves on and has shown some restraint in regards to engaging in meaningless fights.
Bollig failed to register a point in 18 appearances in 2011-12 and 25 games in 2012-13. So far in 2013-14, Bollig has six goals to go with six assists while appearing in all 62 games for Chicago. His time on ice has also increased, going from 6:53 in 2011-12 to this season's average of 10:05.
I have consistently pointed out I could handle a player like Bollig in the lineup if he saw 10 minutes of ice time per game. As the season has progressed, this has occurred more often than not. Bollig has hit double-digit minutes 37 times this season. This includes 13 of Chicago's last 15 games.
If it were a different name and number on the back of the Indian head sweater, would that player be drawing so much ire? Back in the 2008-09 season, Adam Burish was a popular fourth-line skater. Here are his numbers from 66 games that season: six goals, three assists, a rating of plus-three, 93 penalty minutes and an average time on ice of 9:12.
In addition to his 12 points this season (Burish never cracked double digits in his 'Hawks career), Bollig is a plus-two and has 69 penalty minutes. A true comparison is difficult since the talent around Burish wasn't the same as it is currently above Bollig.
Chicago let Burish walk when he became a UFA. If cap conditions had been similar, would he have been re-signed for what Bollig is making now? You can argue he would have.
Bollig is not as quotable as Burish was in his time with the Blackhawks. The debate can rage as to whether Bollig is Burish's equal on the ice. Feel free to point out Bollig's shortcomings as a hockey player.
The salary cap is rising each season. The fact coach Joel Quenneville keeps sending Bollig out with the fourth line indicates Bollig is a fixture in his lineup. Bowman must have felt that extending Bollig was worth overpaying a bit.
We're not talking about Patrick Sharp money in terms of the extension here. Bollig's talent ceiling may not rise much above his current level of play. As a fourth-liner, that shouldn't come as much of a shock.
Bollig is a player who draws strong emotions from the fanbase on both the positive and negative aspects of his game. Based on Monday's news, he may continue to inspire debate for a while.