With just one year left on his current deal, Connor Murphy was set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. No more, as the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman has inked a four-year extension that keeps him under contract through the 2025-26 season. The deal comes with a $4.4MM cap hit. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman explained exactly why he did the deal now:
When we acquired Connor in the summer of 2017, we had visions of him growing as both a player and leader in our organization for many years. He has transformed into a defenseman capable of matching up with the opponent’s best players and someone we trust to help us preserve a lead in the final minutes. Connor’s voice carries weight in our locker room as a veteran presence and we’re thrilled that his development and leadership will continue as a Blackhawk.
Murphy, 28, has come so far since arriving in Chicago that a $4.4MM cap hit now appears to be a bit of a discount for the Blackhawks. The former Arizona Coyotes defenseman was acquired in a deal for Niklas Hjalmarsson and was already making $3.85MM per season. That small raise is a win for Chicago given how much responsibility Murphy has taken on over the last couple of years, including averaging more than 22 minutes a game in 2020-21. He led the team in both even-strength and shorthanded ice time, being matched against the opponent’s best every night.
A four-year extension buys out his age 29-32 seasons, meaning there likely isn’t a steep decline during the contracted years, though any long-term deal does come with some obvious risk. Murphy has never been a very effective offensive player and has a career-high of just 19 points, meaning his entire value comes from his defensive ability. If that falters at all, the Blackhawks would be paying a healthy contract to a player with little impact on the game.
It seems obvious that the Chicago management team wasn’t completely sold on some of the young players that have come through the system in recent years. Henri Jokiharju and Adam Boqvist have both been traded, while this summer they brought in veterans like Seth Jones and Jake McCabe on long-term deals. Murphy will be expected to be the third member of that core group of defenseman as they look to get back into playoff contention. Those three-Murphy, Jones and McCabe–will now carry a combined cap hit of $17.9MM in each of the three seasons after this one.