Campoli, Stalberg not guarantees to return

News that the NHLPA has announced arbitration dates for Chicago Blackhawks Viktor Stalberg and Chris Campoli isn’t a surprise or very significant in and of itself.

What is noteworthy is when those hearings are scheduled, especially Campoli’s.

Stalberg will have his day with an arbiter on July 20. His case is pretty straightforward. He made a base salary of $785,000 in 2010-2011 and has produced 21 goals and 17 assists in 117 career games. He’s also minus-11 in his career, though he was plus-2 last season. He’s due a slight raise and the sides should come to an agreement before the hearing, unless Stalberg is hopeful to get a surprise award from an arbiter, giving him better than a slight raise.

He would have to be willing to play on a one–year deal, an arrangement most players don’t prefer. Or maybe he wants the Hawks to “walk away” from the decision making him an unrestricted free-agent. Afterall, the Hawks' depth chart is packed with wingers, and Stalberg is behind many of them. But that scenario is very risky. The NHL isn’t knocking the door down for Stalberg, and he’s at risk of getting low-ball offers, including two-way deals.

Campoli’s arbitration date isn’t until Aug. 3. That’s very late in the NHL offseason. If the Hawks turned down the decision, Campoli is an unrestricted free agent. For a player looking to make near $3 million, however, there may not be many takers. Or at least not many who look promising.

Most good teams have spent a lot of their salary cap by then, which leaves mediocre teams who will know Campoli is scrambling for a job. It’s not a pleasant scenario. And then there is the prospect of the Hawks accepting the decision and Campoli having to play under a one-year deal.

The one thing going in Campoli’s favor is the Hawks need him as much as he needs them. With the loss of Brian Campbell and addition of Steve Montador the Hawks lost something in their transition game. It’s not enough to dent their style significantly but the loss of another puck moving defenseman would be a blow. Sean O’Donnell taking Campoli’s place doesn’t scream “transition game.”

While arbitration gives players leverage, there are plenty of downsides. For an attractive destination and team like Chicago, it’s a dangerous game for player and agent to let the case go before an arbiter. Barring a trade of either player don’t expect it to get that far.