11:34 a.m.: Chicago has made the extension official, confirming the two-year length and $4.25MM AAV.
8:31 a.m.: The Blackhawks are signing starting goalie Petr Mrázek to a two-year extension, The Athletic’s Scott Powers confirmed Wednesday. ESPN’s Kevin Weekes was the first to report the news and added the deal is expected to come in just north of $8MM ($4MM AAV). The final contract will come in with an $8.5MM total value and $4.25MM AAV, per Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli.
Mrázek, 31, is enjoying his best season in quite some time. He first joined the Blackhawks in a 2022 draft-day deal with the Maple Leafs. Toronto moved down 13 picks from the late first to the early second round to shed Mrázek’s three-year, $11.4MM ($3.8MM AAV) contract after his first season with the Maple Leafs was hampered by injuries and poor play.
At the time, it was rightfully viewed as a cap-dump move. He made only 20 appearances (18 starts) with Toronto in 2021-22, posting a subpar .888 SV% and -9.6 goals saved above average after a three-year run of decent play with the Hurricanes. Mrázek had shown the ability to be an inconsistent but high-ceiling starter earlier in his career with the Red Wings, though, and if he could remain healthy, he had the potential to return to form.
Last season’s initial showing in Chicago was a marginal improvement but still disappointing. No one expected Mrázek to save a team with Max Domi as their leading point-getter, but his .894 SV% and -6.3 goals saved above expected (MoneyPuck) were still lower than a league-average goalie would have posted in his situation. That’s improved starkly this season, though, as his SV% has jumped to .907, and he’s saving more goals than average for the first time since his injury-shortened 2020-21 campaign, his final season with Carolina. His 3.7 goals saved above expected in 32 games doesn’t put him in the Vezina Trophy conversation, but it is an impressive turnaround for a veteran goalie on a bottom-five defensive team.
The biggest difference is health. Mrázek hasn’t sustained an injury in nearly 10 months. His last absence lasted for nine days due to undisclosed reasons shortly after last season’s trade deadline. That’s the longest he’s gone without once since returning from a concussion in March 2020 and then sustaining a hand injury in late Jan. 2021, which limited him to 12 appearances that year.
For most other teams, questions would abound regarding the merits of giving Mrázek a multi-year deal. His laundry list of injury concerns is nothing to scoff at, and he hasn’t put up back-to-back seasons of above-average play since his first two full seasons in the league with Detroit in the mid-2010s.
However, Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson’s team-building goal over the next couple of seasons is team-building around star rookie Connor Bedard, not signing value contracts for success. Despite Bedard’s strong early showings, Chicago is still a few seasons away from exiting their rebuild. The team believes it important to have a veteran core around Bedard and its other prospects to help insulate them and prevent them from burning out too soon, hence a pair of similar extensions for forwards Jason Dickinson and Nick Foligno that also came in well above market value.
In the unlikely event that Mrázek reproduces these solid numbers in the 2024-25 and 2025-26 campaigns, this is a decent bit of business for Davidson to shore up his crease while under-25 names like Drew Commesso, Adam Gajan, Arvid Söderblom, and Jaxson Stauber continue to develop. The Blackhawks aren’t in a position where they’ll need to offload Mrázek’s deal to create additional cap space if it doesn’t work out, either, and his deal is set to expire along with Dickinson’s and Foligno’s in 2026. That’s when Bedard will be due for a massive extension after his entry-level contract.
After extending Mrázek, the Blackhawks’ projected cap hit for next season is just north of $48.25MM, per CapFriendly. They still need to allocate over $16MM in cap hits to next season’s roster to be compliant with the 2024-25 Lower Limit, which is expected to rise to $64.7MM from this season’s $61.7MM.
The deal also takes Mrázek off the market ahead of this season’s trade deadline, where he likely could have garnered significant interest with salary retention on Chicago’s end from contending teams looking for a quality backup. It also takes some free agency work off Davidson’s plate, who presumably won’t pursue a netminder on the UFA market for the second straight season.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.