The Chicago Blackhawks won’t play around with a long restricted free agent negotiation next summer, instead getting their homework done early. The team has announced a three-year extension for Alex DeBrincat, taking him through the 2022-23 season. DeBrincat will earn an average of $6.4MM each year, quickly making him the third-highest paid forward on the Blackhawks roster. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic has the full breakdown:
- 2020-21: $1.0MM salary + $4.0MM signing bonus
- 2021-22: $5.1MM salary
- 2022-23: $9.0MM salary
It’s hard to argue with a contract that locks up one of the league’s best goal-scoring talents before he even sniffs free agency, but this deal does come with a bit of risk. The third-year salary means that the Blackhawks will have to issue DeBrincat a $9MM qualifying offer, and the young forward will be arbitration eligible. Still, with two RFA years remaining after this deal and coming off an incredible 41-goal season, GM Stan Bowman did well to avoid any drawn out contract talks. In fact, should DeBrincat take another step forward this season and push for the Rocket Richard trophy, $6.4MM will seem like a steal (if it doesn’t already).
There are few players in the NHL that can match DeBrincat’s uncanny ability to get open. Whether it is slowing down on the rush to open up for a cross-ice pass, or settling into an open area after the puck has been cycled, the 5’7″ forward constantly finds himself with enough room to snap his quick shot into the back of the net. Obviously playing with talented playmakers like Patrick Kane helps, but there’s no denying the skill of DeBrincat in the offensive zone. Through the first two years of his career he has shot a whopping 17.2% and while that is likely to go down somewhat, DeBrincat’s shot selection is elite and should naturally lead to higher percentages.
The fact that he has scored 69 goals through 164 games perhaps isn’t mentioned enough when hockey fans talk about the next generation of NHL stars. Brock Boeser and Kyle Connor for instance have both scored fewer goals so far in their careers, and neither has hit that impressive 40-goal threshold in a single season. Locking up a potential league-leading goal machine for three years at a reasonable amount is nice work for the Blackhawks and Bowman.
Interestingly, a three-year extension for DeBrincat lines up with a pair of other contracts in Chicago. Kane, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2023, meaning the team will have the ultimate flexibility at that point to pivot in a different direction if they feel the need. Should DeBrincat demand another huge raise at that point, the team will be able to craft a lineup revolving around him.