I've been following the Chicago Blackhawks RFA contract saga over the last couple of days and today was a day of many happenings on that front. The afternoon started off rather well with TSN reporting that the NHLPA did in fact request that the players should be considered unrestricted free agents. Now, that doesn't mean that the players involved were granted UFA status. In fact, it seems overwhelmingly likely that the decision would be left with an independent arbitrator. Later this afternoon, however, the Blackhawks almost made it a moot point by signing all of the players who did not receive proper qualifying offers. All of them, except for Kris Versteeg (incidently, Mr. Tallon, these are not the actions of someone who "doesn't expect any significant fallout").
I had thought that if there would be one player holding on for dear life that it would surely be Aaron Johnson given his agent's earlier comments. In hindsight Versteeg probably makes the most sense as he (and Cam Barker who signed a three year deal with the Blackhawks) has the most to gain by becoming an unrestricted free agent. In some ways, Dale Tallon is now in a very difficult situation. It's unlikely that he'll be able to sign Versteeg and keep him on the Blackhawks. At the same time, if he doesn't sign him, Versteeg is gone for no return. It's probably in Tallon's best interests to sign Versteeg, even to a bit of an overpay, if he's sure that he can move him to someone else for something of value. Versteeg too has some incentive to sign now. Howie Mandel's offers are now probably much higher than what they will be if Versteeg loses in arbitration. If he is offered 3M now, expects 4M if he wins in arbitration and gains UFA status but only 2M if he loses, it may be worth it to just sign with the Hawks. This, I assume, was Cam Barker's reasoning. As for me, I can only hope that Versteeg can hold on until the hearing is over. Without him, we may never know for sure that the Blackhawks would be duly punished for their utterly ridiculous mismanagement and, well, I'd like to know. Then again, I'm not the one risking hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Go for the big money!)