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On Sunday the Blackhawks announced that they had signed restricted free-agent winger Viktor Stalberg to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.75 million. Terms of the deal are believed to be $875K/year, though that has not been officially confirmed as yet.

Stalberg was one of three restricted free-agents still to be signed, and one of two that had filed for arbitration. The contract terms represent a raise of just $25K per year for Stalberg, likely a token amount so his agent could say that he got him something. The arbitration results were unlikely to get him much more.

So, okay, nice deal for the Blackhawks. Under $1 million was likely what they were shooting for, and they got that for two years instead of just one — which the arbitration award would have been had it gone to that stage. But Stalberg is another winger, one of 9 now under contract, and that assumes Patrick Sharp plays center and we don’t re-sign Michael Frolik. We’re overcrowded at this position: where does Viktor Stalberg fit in?

Stalberg is currently slotted as the left wing on the first line on the Blackhawks’ web site’s depth chart. Anyone who saw him play last year knows this is ridiculous. Most pundits, including this one, feel that Andrew Brunette will get first crack at playing alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and rightfully so.

Stalberg made his biggest impact with the team playing on the fourth line, but now he finds himself competing with Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers and John Scott for those slots. Stalberg is big and fast, but is not used to a physical game. He fancies himself a sniper, though he hasn’t been able to follow through on that dream with the Blackhawks.

What’s to be done here?

Once again, it looks like it’s going to be the trading block. The Blackhawks declared early on that they wanted to bring in a big, playmaking center to slot into the second line with Sharp and Marian Hossa. Stalberg might now be one of the pieces of a package that allows the ‘Hawks to do precisely that. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s cheap, and he hasn’t realized his potential yet — or so we can make other teams believe. He’d be a depth player on the 3rd line with top-six potential down the road for almost any team out there.

And let’s face it, this is another situation where a moderately talented player just doesn’t have the room to advance here. Nobody is going to displace Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, or Dave Bolland on this club as long as they’re still here. That means there are a total of four top-nine slots for guys to fight over. When you’re up against Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik as well as Brunette, with talented youngsters like Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger nipping at your heels, your chances are very slim.

So we have Viktor Stalberg signed, but don’t get used to having him around. Something tells me that he, one of our defensemen, and a prospect and/or draft pick will be headed out of town to bring us the center we need between Shooter and Hoss. Given the position we’re in right now, I certainly hope so.