Timing of Carcillo deal biggest question

CHICAGO -- Ask 10 different Chicago Blackhawks fans their opinion of the signing of forward Dan Carcillo to a two-year contract extension and you’re bound to get one of two strong opinions:

Some people will love it and some will hate it.

Those who love it will point to the Hawks' record with him in the lineup this season: 24-11-4 and in first place in the conference when he got hurt on Jan. 2. They’ll also point to some liberties being taken with star players while he’s been out. And they will say "If you think the Hawks lack grit why wouldn’t you re-sign him?"

Those who hate it will indicate Carcillo had little to do with that first-place record, and he’s just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off again. After all, he had served two suspensions already and had just 11 points to go along with 82 penalty minutes before he earned another seven games and knocked himself out of commission with his illegal check of Edmonton’s Tom Gilbert.

The bottom line is the Hawks liked his play when he was in the lineup. He played with the edge they wanted when they acquired him, and he showed a decent amount of skill all the way until his final game this season when he had a beauty of an assist before his reckless hit on Gilbert.

Assistant general manager Marc Bergevin summed up the Hawks thinking in bringing Carcillo back.

“Since he’s been hurt we’ve been lacking that presence,” Bergevin said. “He’s a great fit with our team. If you let him go you’re looking to replace a guy like that. So once you have him you may as well keep him. At the deadline you could hear playoff teams looking for those types of players. We felt we have him. We know what he’s about. We just feel comfortable having him back.”

Bergevin also indicated the Hawks need more than just one player with those attributes, hence the idea that even if Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig are ready for such roles, Carcillo is still needed.

The shock shouldn’t come in the notion that the Hawks liked Carcillo’s play. That could have gone either way, but Joel Quenneville never showed an ounce of frustration with Carcillo’s actions. The only real quibble might be in the details. Why now and why for two years, and why should he get a raise after just 28 games played?

“The fact that we’re signing him for two years shows that we liked him and looking forward to having him,” Quenneville said.

At $825,000 per year, the contract probably won’t tie up the salary cap even if he doesn’t work out. But in a season in which things have not gone exactly as planned, the Hawks might want every chance at offseason flexibility.

If things blow up in a first-round exit, or worse, then the whole organization needs to be examined. Every available dollar and contract should be in play, and tying Carcillo up now could have come just as easily as later.

“With St. Louis [for example] playing real hard-nosed hockey, playoff hockey, the more you have the better you are, especially our team,” Bergevin said.

In other words, no matter what the team looks like next year, there might always a place for a gritty, disturber who comes cheap and has some speed and skill. Carcillo fits that description.

No matter what Shaw or Bollig become, the Hawks already know what they’re getting in Carcillo. If he can show his skill while reigning in his recklessness then the Hawks might have a good player.

In his short career in Chicago, Carcillo hasn’t completely shown that ability. Now he has two more years to prove it.