The Chicago Blackhawks have had a busy morning, signing new contracts with four different players. The team has announced two-year contract extensions for both Matthew Highmore and Kevin Lankinen, while also inking Evan Barratt and Andrei Altybarmakyan to entry-level deals.
Highmore’s contract will carry an average annual value of $725K and is a two-way deal in 2020-21 and a one-way deal in 2021-22. Lankinen meanwhile gets an $800K average annual value, though it is also a two-way deal in 2020-21 and a one-way contract in 2021-22. Due to their ages, Barratt has signed a three-year entry-level deal, while Altybarmakyan’s contract is only for two years.
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the team would extend Highmore, after the 24-year old proved he could be a full-time member of the NHL squad. The undrafted forward had six points in 36 games with the Blackhawks this season, mostly playing an energy role on the fourth line. His near-minimum cap hit will help the Chicago front office navigate an offseason in which they have several tough negotiations. Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome are both scheduled for restricted free agency, but the team won’t have much room if the salary cap is adversely affected by the stoppage as expected.
Lankinen meanwhile lands a new deal as a depth goaltender, one that may be very important to the organization depending on what happens with Corey Crawford. The veteran goaltender is scheduled for unrestricted free agency, leaving the Blackhawks without a clear starter for next year.
It is Barratt who is perhaps the most interesting player signed today, after finishing another excellent season at Penn State. The 21-year old forward was originally a third-round selection in 2017, but has turned in three strong years at the collegiate level and was even selected for Team USA at the 2019 World Juniors. Barratt will turn pro and try to work his way up a Blackhawks organization that will be looking for young, cheap talent in the coming years.
Altybarmakyan is another third-round pick from 2017, selected out of Russia 20 spots higher than Barratt. The 21-year old winger has played the last two seasons for Sochi in the KHL, scoring six goals and 17 points this year. Despite arriving in the Blackhawks organization at the same time, Altybarmakyan could have actually been picked a year earlier—he went undrafted in his first year of eligibility. Since his birthday is nearly six months earlier than Barratt, his entry-level deal will expire a year sooner.