CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks resolved some of the administrative problems surrounding their restricted free agents by signing five of those players on Monday.
The Blackhawks announced they had agreed to two-year deals with forward Troy Brouwer and goaltender Corey Crawford. Forwards Ben Eager and Colin Fraser, and defenseman Aaron Johnson each signed one-year contracts.
Notably absent from the list of signed players were forward Kris Versteeg, an NHL rookie-of-the-year finalist, and defenseman Cam Barker.
Although it’s unlikely, both Versteeg and Barker could be declared unrestricted free agents in light of a grievance filed by the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) on Monday.
“The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) confirms today that it has filed a grievance regarding the failure of the Chicago Blackhawks to submit qualifying offers to its 2009 restricted free agents prior to the deadline stipulated in the CBA,” the NHLPA said in a statement. The NHLPA said the case is pending before an arbitrator.
NHL teams had until June 29 to qualify their restricted free agents. Tendering a qualifying offer enables a player’s team the right to match any offer he receives from another club.
Last week, Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon said that offers had been tendered to all seven of Chicago’s restricted free agents.
But published reports surfaced that the offers —commonly sent to players and their agents via courier and to the NHL via fax — hadn’t arrived in time.
On Sunday, the NHL concluded a brief investigation of the possible administrative mistake without taking any action. A delivery delay could have been caused by the Canada Day holiday on July 1 and U.S. Independence Day on July 4.
“I am aware of the grievance filed by the NHLPA,” Tallon said Monday in a prepared statement. “We are respectfully working with the NHL, NHLPA, our players and their representatives so that we can resolve this as soon as possible.”
If Tallon can sign Versteeg and Barker, the grievance could become moot. Last season, Versteeg has 22 goals and 31 assists in 78 games to rank fourth in team scoring. Barker had six goals and 34 assists in 68 games.