Ever since the Blackhawks brought Martin Havlat to Chicago in a three-way trade with the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks that also brought Brian Smolinski to town, Havlat has had a hard time staying on the ice. After playing in only 18 games for the Senators in 2005-2006, Marty was only able to manage 56 games in his first season in town, and followed that up with only 35 games last year. So after two seasons Havlat had missed 73 games due to injury. Though when he was on the ice, he did produce, accounting for 84 points and a +19 in 91 games.
This season, in the final year of his contract, Havlat has been able to stay healthy and hasn't missed a game. As a result he's the second highest scoring player on the team with 17 goals and 25 assists while being +11. A very solid season, even if his points per game has dropped, but that's due more to the continued emergence of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and the rookie Kris Versteeg than it is Havlat's performance.
In fact, it could be argued that Havlat has been even more productive this season as his effort on the defensive end has been just as important as any offense he's contributed. Still, at the beginning of the year it was pretty much an accepted fact that this would be Havlat's last season in Chicago, but now because of his health and play, the team is reconsidering that. Word now is that they'd like to sign him to a contract extension.
"He wants to stay, and we want him to," [general manager Dale] Tallon said. "We just wanted to be careful and be sure [he was healthy]. The only thing that has held him back is the injuries. He's getting better and better with each game. We're excited about having him, and we'd like to keep him."
Of course, while it would be nice to keep Havlat wearing the indian head sweater for a few more years, the Hawks have to be careful that it doesn't cost them in the long run. Toews, Kane, and defenseman Duncan Keith will all be restricted free agents after next season, and the Hawks need to make sure a Havlat extension doesn't lead to having to let one of those three key players leave town in a year. Something that could be tricky to pull off without knowing what the NHL's salary cap will be for the 2010-2011 season.
If they are able to keep Havlat along with the other three players, it would help ensure that the Hawks will be a contending team for years to come.
Along with writing for NBCCHICAGO.com, Tom Fornelli can also be found contributing at FanHouse, SPORTSbyBROOKS, and his own Chicago sports blog Foul Balls. He remains committed to the indian.