Within the next few days, the Chicago Blackhawks are expected to begin discussion with University of Denver’s defenseman Ian Mitchell and Penn State forward Evan Barratt, both college juniors, on signing with the team on entry-level contracts, according to The Athletic’s Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus (subscription required). Early reports suggest that both have shown little interest in returning to their collegiate teams for their senior season.
Both players had their college seasons cut short due to the NCAA opting to cancel all winter championships on Thursday due to the Coronavirus. It was assumed that both players would have the first year of their entry-level deal burned if their college seasons ended before the Blackhawks’ season was over. That could conceivably still happen and a player doesn’t even have to play an NHL game to burn the first year of his contract. They just need to be on an active roster.
Regardless, Mitchell could be a key addition to a Blackhawks team that needs help on defense, whether that is this year or starting next season. Chicago was hoping to bring Mitchell in after his sophomore year at Denver, but the 21-year-old wanted to return to his team in hopes of challenging for a collegiate championship as well as to challenge for the Hobey Baker award. Mitchell had a dominant season with Denver this season, posting 10 goals and 32 points in 36 games as well as playing at the Spengler Cup for Team Canada, where he posted a goal and two points in four games.
Barratt is another surprise for a Blackhawks, who drafted the forward in the third round of 2017. Barratt is more likely to find himself starting his pro career in the AHL. He had a dominant sophomore season in 2018-19, posting 16 goals and 43 points in 32 games, but saw a minor drop in his production this season as he has 12 goals and 34 points in 34 games. Regardless, it would add another talented prospect into the team’s cupboard.
Of course, with a stoppage in work for the moment, both players and the team have plenty of time to work out a deal.