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Blackhawks sign Frolik, Lepisto

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- The look on Stan Bowman's face was one of relief Friday evening at the opening of the Chicago Blackhawks' annual fan convention at the Hilton Hotel.

After working out a new three-year contract with restricted free-agent forward Michael Frolik and signing free agent defenseman Sami Lepisto to a one-year deal Friday, Chicago's general manager finally can breathe a sigh of relief.

His slew of seemingly rapid-fire off-season moves is nearing a conclusion, and the Blackhawks definitely have a new look. In the past month Bowman has traded Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Troy Brouwer, added six free agents -- all signed to one-year deals -- acquired veteran defenseman Steve Montador and inked new pacts with forwards Viktor Stalberg and Frolik.

"I think at this point we're pretty happy with our group," Bowman said. "The last pieces have kind of come into place here. We knew we were going to get (Frolik) signed. It was just a matter of the term. It was pretty important for us to try and get him to a longer term, because as we've seen with other contracts, usually by the time you do a two-year deal, you're probably wishing you would've done three."

Frolik's new contract is worth a total of just under $7 million, according to, with a salary-cap hit of $2.333 million each of the next three seasons. Lepisto's one-year deal is worth a reported $750,000, which leaves the Hawks with nearly $4 million of cap space in the League's new $64.3 million hard cap.

As for Lepisto, that deal came about after talks stalled with restricted 27-year-old restricted free-agent defenseman Chris Campoli, who the Blackhawks acquired at the trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators.

Chicago now has 24 players signed and vying to make the final NHL roster heading into training camp -- along with organizational prospects -- which means Campoli won't be part of the picture. Bowman said he will trade Campoli's negotiating rights prior to his Aug. 3 arbitration hearing or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent after the hearing.

"We tried to work it out with Chris," Bowman said. "We worked our hardest. We went back and forth and made him our best offer and it didn't work for them. So we indicated that we're going to have to go another direction and they understand that. We ended up going to the free-agent market and we talked to a few people, but Sami was the guy that in speaking to him … he really wanted to be with the Blackhawks and that means a lot to us."

Lepisto, 26, established new career-highs in goals (4), assists (12) and points (16) in 70 regular-season games in 2010-11 with the Coyotes and Blue Jackets. In 150 regular-season NHL games with the Capitals, Coyotes and Blue Jackets, Lepisto has 27 assists and 32 points. He also has 1 goal in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games, all with Phoenix in 2010.

Along with adding Montador and veteran blueliner Sean O'Donnell, plus keeping John Scott on defense, the Blackhawks are set in the back end with eight defensemen.

The signing of Frolik, however, was a big one for Bowman, who said he liked what he saw from the 23-year-old forward down the stretch and into the playoffs last season. Frolik was acquired from the Panthers on Feb. 9, and in 28 games with the Blackhawks had 3 goals and 6 assists. In total, the Kladno, Czech Republic native finished 2010-11 with a career-high 27 assists and 38 points in 80 regular-season games. He also had 2 goals and 3 assists in seven playoff games.

"We've been working on that (deal) for the last couple weeks here and it just kind of came to completion late (Thursday) and this morning," Bowman said of Frolik. "Like I said when we started this whole process, Michael's an important part of the team. He's the guy that we expect to be part of our group for a while. He played some of his best hockey in pressure situations down the stretch, in particular in the playoffs, and I think there's a lot more to his game. We're excited to have him here for three more years."

Following the playoffs, he helped the Czech Republic capture the bronze medal at the IIHF World Championship, collecting 3 goals and 5 points.

"I would like to start (next season) like I ended," said Frolik. "I'm really happy and excited to be here and play for the Hawks. I think it's one of the best places to play hockey. I was here the last two months last year and I really enjoyed the time here. It was really different than Florida and I really love the city. I wasn't thinking about (possibly playing in) Europe. I was hoping we could make the deal."

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