The Blackhawks and general manager Kyle Davidson have used the middle portion of this season to embark on quite the spending spree – veterans Nick Foligno and Jason Dickinson were signed to two-year deals worth $4.5 million and $4.25 million per year, respectively. Davidson and his staff are building the roster of the next two years from the ground up, keeping veteran leaders in place and filling out the rest with young, exciting prospects.
On Wednesday morning, the Blackhawks announced the latest two-year extension in the spending spree as goaltender Petr Mrazek signed a deal with a $4.25 million cap hit.
While some argue that recent deals, including this one, will count too much toward the cap, the fact is that the Blackhawks are more concerned with reaching the NHL cap floor this summer than hitting the ceiling. With nearly $40 million to work with before next year, contract size is the least of Chicago’s concerns. One trend worth noting, however, is that each of the three veteran contracts has been for two years. Davidson has emphasized future flexibility in the past, and he’s doing a great job of building his roster while maintaining that flexibility down the road. By the time the Blackhawks are ready to hopefully sign Connor Bedard and Kevin Korchinski to massive deals, the recently signed contracts will be up, and the team will be ready to fully embrace the new era.
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In Mrazek’s 32 games this year, he’s been one of the most valuable players on a rebuilding team decimated by injuries. He has a 3.01 GAA and .907 save percentage, but those numbers are truly impressive given the defense being played in front of him. Mrazek has consistently made excellent saves, keeping his team in close, low-scoring games.
Mrazek has been everything the Blackhawks could have asked for and more, especially given that he was acquired in a cap-dump situation from Toronto in summer 2022. He wasn’t terrific last season while splitting time with Alex Stalock, but has experienced a career revival of sorts this year.
It’s unclear whether Mrazek will be able to keep up his excellent pace for the next two years, but more importantly, the Blackhawks don’t have too many other options between the pipes. 24-year-old Arvid Soderblom has improved this year, and hopes to be the team’s long-term answer, but there isn’t really anyone reliable for him to share the net with. Drew Commesso is the netminder with the highest ceiling in the pipeline, but he just got to Rockford this season and isn’t ready to be a full-time NHLer just yet. Jaxson Stauber is another AHLer with six games of experience at the top level, but he’s even more unreliable than Soderblom at this point. Giving up six or more goals per game would hurt this team’s development far more than it would help, so Mrazek is important for the long-term goals of this team, even if he won’t be around forever.
While the veteran won’t be with the team by the time they’re contending for a championship, the latest signing is as important as any. Mrazek is a great option between the pipes, paving the way for the future of the position.