Don't get me wrong, Viktor Stalberg is evolving into a complete hockey player before our eyes, but that doesn't mean he's in the Chicago Blackhawks organization's long-term plans.
I haven't hesitated to rip on Viktor in the past because of his inability to execute a routine play, such as a one-timer with a wide-open net, but I'm not afraid to praise the 25-year-old when praise is due.
Right now is when Stalberg deserves as much praise as ever in his young NHL career. He's on pace to set a career-high in points, which he set last season with 24, and he's showing flashes of a multi-tool forward.
Stalberg entered the Christmas break scorching, tallying five points (two goals, three assists) in the Hawks' three previous games, and he didn't cool off in the team's first game back following the holiday. Vik scored another two goals against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 4-1 victory.
Stalberg may be showcasing his speed, strength, physicality and playmaking, but his arsenal of skill may be put to use for another organization when his current contract expires at the end of next season, or maybe before via trade.
No trade this season will involve Stalberg because of the price he comes at compared to his production on the ice. Viktor is earning a mere $1.75M over the next two seasons, and he has the potential to command a few million dollars more come time to negotiate if he continues to play at the level he's been since mid-December.
Keep in mind the Blackhawks have locked up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane through the '15 season, Brent Seabrook through the '16 season, Patrick Sharp through the '17 season, Marian Hossa through the '21 season and Duncan Keith through the '23 season. It takes a special player to sign a long-term deal with Blackhawks organization being that the NHL has a salary cap.
Nick Leddy, Chicago's 20-year-old blueliner, is one of those special players who will be worth locking up long-term when he's due for a new contract the same season Stalberg becomes a free agent.
By the time Stalberg's set for a new deal he'll be 27 years old. That's not old, but the investment won't be worth the reward unless Vik is willing to settle for less money and less years in order to remain with the storied franchise.
Compare Stalberg to Kris Versteeg when he played on the '10 Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks. Versteeg showed signs of talent, but like Stalberg, his production was inconsistent during his tenure in Chicago. Sure, Versteeg played a significant role for the Hawks, but his production wasn't worth the $3M the organization had to pay him.
If Stalberg continues to produce on a consistent basis over the next year-and-a-half, he's going to be a rich man. But he's going to be a rich man living in a city other than Chicago.
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