Yesterday, a poster on the message boards asked about the value of David Kampf. Power29's inquiry dovetails nicely with a topic I had on the list of blog topics for the summer so here is an expanded version of how I would have address the question.
Question posed by Power29:
What is the Hawk's obsession with David Kampf? Why don't we get rid of him? Just as you cannot have a "pure enforcer" in the game anymore, why do we settle for a "pure f/o% guy"? Kampf is a one trick pony 4th liner who contributes little to no offense and is an average physical defensive player.
Firstly, in all fairness, Kampf isn't just an average defensive player. Yes, he's one dimensional as a defensive specialist yet he's quite good actually at tilting the ice towards Chicago's favor and can play a shutdown role when called upon. Plus, he's strong at the dot.
While not very physical by any stretch, Kampf is solidly built to take a licking when making a play and bounce back up to rejoin the action. Over the past many years, Kampf has been in the top 3 along with Connor Murphy and Matt Tomkins in composite fitness metrics for the team.
Regardless of his defensive and fitness attributes, Kampf is an offensive desert maxing out around 0.25 PPG over the last 4 seasons. He's fine at 4C if there are no options for defensive centers with some offensive jam to fill out the bottom 6 with enhanced dimensionality.
This is where MacKenzie Entwistle could be next in line to take the 4C role. He and Mike Hardman are primed for starting jobs on the 4th line next season. Entwistle has played wing in his brief NHL stint but played primarily pivot for two seasons with the IceHogs.
If the middle is Entwistle's ultimate landing spot, he could be the heir apparent to Kampf in due course. There are some who envision Entwistle playing a step higher on the 3rd line but his offensive contributions may not reach that level once he reaches his prime.
Either way, Entwistle is a valuable bottom 6 forward who can be a big body on the PP, be a key cog on the PK, and be a dependable defender in pressure situations like holding leads. In his pre-pro career, he thrived as a high-stakes player in juniors and on national teams.
So pretending the Blackhawks part ways with Kampf and assuming Entwistle and Hardman earn spots on the 4th line for 2021-22, that would leave a spot available. With Entwistle and Hardman, that's two large physical forces who can skate, defend, and score timely goals.
As it stands today, Ryan Carpenter and Brett Connolly are options to play on the 4th line. Brandon Hagel is too good to be a 4th liner and so are Pius Suter, Philipp Kurashev, and Adam Gaudette. Vincent Hinostroza is a possibility but he too has more to give offensively.
Kampf, Hagel, and Suter are RFAs while Hinostroza is a UFA. Hagel and Suter are virtual locks to be re-signed. If Hinostroza's rebirth as an impact player upon returning home to Chicago is any indication, a contract renewal may be in the cards. Kampf is the question mark.
Realistically, though, probability is high that Kampf is retained and is the team's 4C for the foreseeable future. Being flanked by linemates who can amp up the offense on their line would make it more palatable having Kampf take a roster spot where offense is a black hole.
Why does offense from the 4th line matter? For one thing, if the 4th line is expected to shut down the opponent's top players and may be on the ice for more than single-digit minutes per game 5-on-5, then that line becomes more scary if they can also kill you on the scoreboard.
Looking past 2021-22, there are many prospects who will jockey for regular jobs on the Hawks at least on the 4th line if not greater as more versatile bottom 6 or even middle 6 forwards. Some of those prospects are in Rockford already and some are further away.
* Andrei Altybarmakian (AHL)
* Evan Barratt (AHL)
* Reese Johnson (AHL)
* Artur Kayumov (KHL)
* Ryder Rolston (NCAA)
* Antti Saarela (Liiga)
* Landon Slaggert (NCAA)
* Josiah Slavin (AHL)
* Tim Soderlund (AHL)
Last week Dylan McLaughlin was the first IceHogs player to sign a new contract this offseason with a one-year AHL deal. Another player has been signed and will be announced at 12:00pm CDT today. There are a number of likely candidates for this re-signing:
* Mitchell Fossier (W)
* Garrett Mitchell (W)
* Chris Wilkie (W)
* Chad Yetman (W)
* Cody Franson (D)
* Cole Moberg (D)
Each team in the AHL had a choice between playing a slate of 76 regular season games, 72 games, or 68 games. The IceHogs opted for 72 games and will continue to play in the Western Conference's Central Division which will be comprised of the following teams:
* Chicago Wolves (Hurricanes)
* Grand Rapids Griffins (Red Wings)
* Iowa Wild (Wild)
* Manitoba Moose (Jets)
* Milwaukee Admirals (Predators)
* Rockford IceHogs (Blackhawks)
* Texas Stars (Stars)
It is also reported that later this summer the AHL will announce an expanded Calder Cup playoff format which would allow more teams to qualify for the postseason. Additionally, the start date for the 2021-22 AHL regular season has been set for October 15.
See you on the boards!