June 17, 2010
Former Colorado College hockey player Bill Sweatt won’t be signing with the Chicago Blackhawks this summer, his agent said earlier this week.
“We’re pretty much at the end of negotiations,” Scott Nelson said.
The 2007 second-round draft pick (No. 38) fell victim to the salary cap crunch the Stanley Cup champions are facing this offseason.
There wasn’t much wiggle room for Chicago to shell out a big contract to a prospect with starting goalie and free agent Antti Niemi looking for a big pay raise (he made $827,000 last season) and money committed to the likes of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
“It was purely a business decision,” Nelson said.
Past second-round signing bonuses were around $250,000, said Nelson, who is confident he can get most of that back when Sweatt signs as a free agent after Aug. 15, when Chicago’s rights to him expire.
Becoming a free agent may prove beneficial. Sweatt could find an organization that has a number of openings at forward, giving him a better chance to advance to the NHL. European leagues remain an option.
“I have no personal preference,” Sweatt said. “I want to go somewhere that it is the best fit.”
Defenseman Kris Fredheim is also in a wait-and-see mode until Aug. 15, when the Vancouver 2005 sixth-round pick (No. 185) may become a free agent.
The Canucks signed three young free agent defensemen, including Bill’s older brother Lee Sweatt, this offseason.
“Right now we’re not really sure,” the economics graduate said. “They’re going through a heavy overhaul. I don’t know where I fit into the mix.”
He likely has a training camp spot lined up with the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings after signing in April and playing five games. The coach and general manager, Mark Morrison, liked what he saw and put the rookie on the team’s final 2009-10 roster and protected list.
Fredheim said he got a lot of ice time and he benefited from the slower play compared to college hockey. Fredheim would be happy playing in Victoria, he said, but he hopes to get a shot at the American Hockey League when training camps start in September.
Both former Tigers will know a lot more by late August.
“I’m pretty hopeful, but all I can do is concentrate on working hard this summer to be ready,” Sweatt said.