The Blackhawks agreed to terms with forward John Hayden on a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2019-20 season, the team announced Friday. It's a one-way deal that carries an annual cap hit of $750,000, according to Scott Powers of The Athletic.
With the signing, the Blackhawks now have four remaining restricted free agents this summer: Adam Clendening, Anthony Duclair, Vinnie Hinostroza and Tomas Jurco. Qualifying offers must be submitted by June 25 to retain their rights or else the players officially become unrestricted free agents and are free to sign with any team. (Update: Hinostroza has agreed to a two-year extension with the Blackhawks).
Hayden, 23, inked a two-year entry-level deal with the Blackhawks last March following his senior season at Yale, but burned the first year by joining Chicago immediately and playing in 12 regular-season games — plus one postseason contest — during the 2016-17 campaign.
This past season, Hayden compiled 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 47 games with the Blackhawks and became a fixture on the fourth line with Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels, arguably the team's most consistent trio throughout the first half of the year, before getting assigned to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, where he registered 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 24 games and helped lead the club to the Western Conference Finals. He also posted three goals in 13 playoff games.
But don't expect Hayden to spend much time in Rockford going forward.
Given a big part of what Chicago lacked last season was forwards that go to the dirty areas and can provide net-front presence, it's hard to envision Hayden not having a permanent role on the Blackhawks. Where that is remains to be seen.
Ideally, he's your perfect fourth-line anchor who can play any of the three forward positions, but is certainly capable of also jumping up and down any of the four lines and serving as a spark plug when needed. That includes the power play, too.
It's difficult to project line combinations and where players could slot in because it's still too early with the NHL Draft and free agency looming. But there's a good chance Hayden will be part of that forward rotation on a consistent basis.