ROCKFORD, Ill. -- The Chicago Blackhawks are working to sign defenseman prospect Mike Paliotta, assistant general manager Norm Maciver said on Wednesday.
Paliotta, a Blackhawks’ 2011 third-round draft pick, became eligible to sign with Chicago when his senior collegiate season at Vermont ended last week. Paliotta’s agent Jordan Neumann said Monday that Paliotta and his family were “giving signing with the Blackhawks a tremendous amount of thought.”
Paliotta, who is 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, had nine goals, 27 assists and was a plus-14 in 41 games this season. He’s tied for second in the nation in assists among defensemen and tied for fourth in points. He recently was named the best defensive defenseman in the Hockey East.
“Obviously we’re trying to sign Michael,” Maciver said before a Rockford IceHogs’ game on Wednesday. “I know [Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman] has been in contact with his agent. We’ll do everything we can to get Michael under contract.”
The Blackhawks have until Aug. 15 to sign Paliotta. If the Blackhawks are unable to sign him before the deadline, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
The Blackhawks lost Kevin Hayes, a 2010 first-round pick, to free agency when Hayes opted not to sign before the Aug. 15 deadline in 2014. Hayes, who played four years at Boston College, signed with the New York Rangers and has 14 goals and 22 assists in 69 games in the NHL this season. The Blackhawks received a compensatory second-round pick in the 2015 draft for Hayes.
“There’s really no way to prevent that, other than signing them obviously earlier,” Maciver said. “If they make a decision they’re going to play their four years and go the free-agent route, any kid in college can do that. They have that option if they decide they feel that’s in their best interest. Really, they hold the cards in that.
“Obviously when you draft a player, you draft them with the intention of signing them. That’s what we’d like to do with these kids. With the amount of time we spend with them in prospect camp and with our development staff, hopefully they realize that we feel we have their best interest at heart and we’re trying to do everything we can to help them become better hockey players and help the Blackhawks in the future.”
Maciver thought the depth of the organization was a factor in players’ decisions.
“I think the other thing people don’t realize is that if you look at the last six years, we’ve probably had more draft picks than any other team in the league,” Maciver said. “When you have so many draft picks, you have a deep pool of prospects. There’s only so many roster spots on an NHL team. Obviously players are going to look at opportunity. And sometimes maybe is it a fair question to say we get penalized? Maybe.
“We do the best we can to obviously put the best team we can out there. The players we draft we try to develop and work as much as we can. That’s all we’re really trying to do.”