In a year where the Blackhawks have been somewhat disappointing, even if mostly due to injury, one pleasant surprise for the team has been defenseman Alex Vlasic. The young blueliner spent portions of the last two seasons in Chicago but didn’t transition to a full-time role with the Blackhawks until the beginning of this year. In what was initially supposed to be a “developing” year for the 22-year-old, Vlasic has been the best, most consistent defenseman on a team that lacks in that department.
Vlasic routinely uses his looming 6-foot-6 frame to shut down opposing attackers, covering an impressive amount of ice with his long reach. Mostly a “shutdown defenseman”, he’s also beginning to develop a bit of an offensive presence with 10 points in 37 games. With Vlasic set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, though, what would his next deal look like?
When Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson met with the media during the first intermission of Saturday’s game against the Stars, he was asked about the next contract of his young defenseman and gave an answer that certainly left room for interpretation.
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“You definitely weigh it, for sure. You want to be sure, though, right? The salary cap is pretty unforgiving, so if you’re going to go long, long term, you want to make sure that you’re giving the contract that’s going to work out and not hamstring you anywhere and hold you back. But he’s had a great season and given us a lot of confidence in what he’s going to be moving forward.”– GM Kyle Davidson
Davidson raved about Vlasic’s talent on the ice, using terms like “dynamite” and “rock solid”. With Vlasic outperforming everyone on the defensive end this season, there’s no question he should be brought back if at all possible. The question now, though, is the length of that contract, and Davidson will have to walk a fine line to answer. A bridge deal wouldn’t make a lot of sense considering that the Blackhawks aren’t yet ready to compete for a championship. Vlasic figures to be one of the cornerstones of this rebuilding team and deserves a deal that locks him up until then.
However, too long of a deal could backfire and have disastrous effects on the team. While Chicago certainly isn’t a cap-strapped team for now, they’ll eventually have to cut deals with Connor Bedard, Kevin Korchinski, and others. If Vlasic isn’t able to sustain his excellent play for the next decade, a huge deal would cause serious issues down the road.
With Davidson appearing noncommittal either way, but certainly doing his best to bring Vlasic back, look for the defenseman to sign a middle-range deal, perhaps around five years. He’ll be able to get a pretty hefty payday on such a contract ($5-6 million) since the two sides won’t be tied down for too long of a term, so both sides should be happy. The team should be able to get a deal done soon – the only question is for how long.