Blackhawks, Alex Vlasic agree to 6-year contract extension: Source

No player has earned more respect and created more optimism in the Blackhawks locker room this season than defenseman Alex Vlasic.

The arrival of Connor Bédard may have changed the Blackhawks’ future, but he was exactly what they expected. It lived up to the hype. On the other hand, as Vlasic entered his first full NHL season, no one really knew what to expect.

A season later, Vlasic, 22, opened their eyes with his ability to shut down opposing plays with his length, positioning and IQ. He did it against everyone too. He became Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson’s most reliable defenseman and played against the best lines at the highest rate.

In a recent poll, Blackhawks teammates voted Vlasic as one of the team’s best players who doesn’t get enough credit, raving about his potential even though he received more respect across the board. of the league.

The Blackhawks locked up that potential Wednesday, as the team and Vlasic agreed to a six-year contract extension with a cap hit of $4.6 million, a league source said. Vlasic’s contract will expire after the 2029-30 season.

Vlasic, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois, signed Kyle Davidson’s first long-term contract as general manager of the Blackhawks, becoming the first young player guaranteed in the puzzle of Davidson reconstruction.

Vlasic said a long-term extension with his hometown team is a dream come true.

“I would love to be here as long as possible,” Vlasic said after the season. “It’s amazing to be able to play for my hometown team, the same town I grew up in, so I’m not really looking to go anywhere else. So yeah, I want to be here as long as possible, and (Davidson) knows that.

Vlasic’s extension will also give him peace of mind as he travels to Czechia to play for Team USA at the World Championships next month. Without a contract, he had to take out an insurance policy in case he was injured while playing for his country.

Vlasic is excited to represent the United States again and be part of the conversations at upcoming international events. The tournament is also an opportunity for him and compatriot Seth Jones, who will also play for the United States, to continue to develop their chemistry as the Blackhawks’ number one duo.

Jones was among those who were blown away by Vlasic’s season. Jones compared his experience playing with youngster Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets to playing with Vlasic now.

“Vlassy, ​​playing with him all year, tremendous progress,” Jones said after the season. “I played with Werenski when he was 21, and they are different players, but you see the same things as there – me personally. Vlassy will be a hell of a defender and I had a lot of fun playing with him this year.

Nick Foligno, another Blackhawks team leader, had similar praise for Vlasic.

“I know we call it the ‘Connor Bedard era,’ but I also call it the beginning of the ‘Alex era.’ Vlasic Era’ too, and what he’s already done for our team and (Kevin) Korchinski,” Foligno said after the season.

Vlasic’s analytics place him in the category of elite defenders this season. Based on the Evolving Hockey model, Vlasic was first among all defensemen in overall defensive goals above replacement and second in even-strength defense. Vlasic also finishes first AthleticismThe net rating model for all Blackhawks players.

“What he accomplished this year was incredible from day one,” Richardson said of Vlasic after the season. “Being in a leading role with Seth, I think they complement each other really well. And with their range and reach, I thought they defended really well. But both can get on the ice at times and contribute to the offense.

Richardson hopes Vlasic can add more offense in the future as well. He has two goals and 14 assists in 76 games this season. He had a handful of breakaways that he couldn’t convert.

“I know Vlassy was a little frustrated that he didn’t finish his attack better, but it will come,” Richardson said. “I thought he started shooting the puck better at the end of the year and was going to end up with one of those shorthanded breakaways one of those times. But with the composure that he played with and just his skating ability, laterally, he just stole pucks everywhere and turned them into running lines. It was incredible to see. And he’s only 22 years old. Right now it’s going to start to fill out because it’s so long and lanky. If he maintains that side-skating, side-skating ability and mobility and develops another 10, 15 pounds of solid muscle and strength, he’ll definitely be a tough man to play against.

And now Vlasic is assured he will do just that with the Blackhawks.

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(Photo: Sergei Belsky / USA Today)

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