Will Olesz be odd man out for Hawks?

The Blackhawks acquired Rostislav Olesz from Florida so they could shed Brian Campbell's contract, but will Olesz stick with the team? Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks training camp is a couple of weeks away, but barring a last minute change to the roster the numbers will stay the same: The Hawks have 24 legitimate players for 23 roster spots. That's the maximum a team can carry, not counting anyone on injured reserve.

So who doesn't make the team?

Thinking conservatively, let's start with the absolute givens who will make it: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland, Andrew Brunette, Michael Frolik, Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy and Steve Montador, along with goalies Corey Crawford and either Alexander Salak or Ray Emery are locks. That much we know.

It leaves Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger, Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Rostislav Olesz, Sean O'Donnell, Sami Lepisto and John Scott fighting it out for the final roster spots.

At least a few of those names, Bickell and O'Donnell for example, might be locks as well, but nothing is written in stone for fourth-line players, youngsters, or those in the waning stages of their career. You assume they'll make it, but they still have to perform in camp. Still, the obvious bubble players are Kruger, Olesz, Stalberg and Scott.

The most obvious choice might be Kruger. On the surface he didn't ‘wow' anyone in his trial under fire late in the season, and he'd be a perfect candidate for some grooming. But in reality, Kruger showed more than the casual fan saw. He simply wasn't overwhelmed, and while some may have expected more on the score sheet, the team is a little more forgiving considering the circumstances of his late arrival.

Kruger is also a true center, and the Hawks have very few of those on the roster. And it's believed Joel Quenneville wanted Kruger on last year's team if he had decided to stay in the States after prospects camp. So if he was ready last October and did nothing to embarrass himself last April, then he has a better chance to make it than some might think.

Smith simply showed too much to his game in his short stint last year not to think he's a Top-9 player, but he can be sent down without clearing waivers, so he does give the Hawks flexibility if others have good training camps. Bickell didn't always play the way people expected, but for $500,000 the Hawks got 17 goals out of him. It doesn't mean he'll repeat those numbers, but it should get him another chance to try.

Speaking of having good camps, Stalberg and Scott might need them in order to stay off the firing line. Scott says he's tried to improve his skating and will get to concentrate on defense in September. It will be apparent quickly if he's improved.

It's possible Stalberg could be the odd man out despite signing a two-year contract extension this offseason. His flashes of offense were few and far between, and he never lasted long on the Hawks top line, proving Quenneville wasn't always thrilled with his play. To his credit, he never pouted and did his best as a fourth line player earning some credibility as a grittier guy than first expected. He even got into it with Kevin Bieksa of Vancouver in the playoffs. By the end of training camp he could be a player on the move if the rest of the roster is healthy or else he and prospect Jeremy Morin could be the reserves in the minors the Hawks would first call upon. Still, Stalberg isn't at the top of the list to be cut.

Olesz is the No. 1 candidate to be sent packing. He's the one player on the whole roster the Hawks may have simply been given instead of chosen. To rid themselves of Brian Campbell's contract the Hawks had to get a mediocre player or contract in return from Florida. Olesz is it. But is the contract and the player mediocre or just the contract? The Hawks say they don't know what they have in the former first round pick. That can be good or bad. With so many players seemingly entrenched, it's probably bad for Olesz. Then again, if his talent becomes apparent in camp he might be given the benefit of the doubt considering he's set to make $3.1 million per year over the next three.

The question becomes does owner Rocky Wirtz want to pay another player good money to play elsewhere? He's already on the hook for one more year with Cristobal Huet at $5.6 million. The Hawks will undoubtedly send Olesz through waivers but it's doubtful anyone would grab him at that price. It might mean working out a deal for him to play overseas. That would make Wirtz nearly $10 million lighter in the wallet this year without seeing any return in those investments.

It would also give the Hawks even more salary cap space as they could dominate the market come trade time if they desire. Smart money says Olesz is the odd man out, but one injury in camp could save his job or that of someone else.

And if the Hawks decide to keep 22 players, more than one tough decision will have to be made.

It's what training camp is for.