Blackhawks

Vinnie Hinostroza agrees to two-year extension with Blackhawks

Vinnie Hinostroza agrees to two-year extension with Blackhawks

Hours after re-signing John Hayden, the Blackhawks rewarded Vinnie Hinostroza with a two-year contract extension of his own. The deal carries a $1.5 million cap hit, according to Scott Powers of The Athletic.

"It's great to be able to re-sign here," Hinostroza said on NBC Sports Chicago's SportsTalk Live on Friday evening. "This is where I started my career, this is where I was drafted, this is where I was born, so it's kind of weird that I've been able to spend my first three years here and then another two. Couldn't be happier about it, I know my family is really happy too."

The remaining three restricted free agents for the Blackhawks now includes Adam Clendening, Anthony Duclair and Tomas Jurco. 

Hinostroza started the 2017-18 season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, where he notched 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 23 games. He was recalled by the Blackhawks on Dec. 8, 2017, and hasn't looked back since.

The 24-year-old speedster set career highs with seven goals, 18 assists and 25 points in 50 games and did so by averaging only 13:49 of ice time per game. He was one of the best possession players on the Blackhawks, who controlled 54.6 percent of the shot attempts when he was on the ice at even strength.

Hinostroza also ranked second on the team among players who appeared in at least 10 games with 1.98 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, a number only Patrick Kane topped at 2.16. 

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has always included Hinostroza as part of the long-term plan, and was confident a deal would get done.

While this may be a bridge deal, it's a win-win for both sides.

It's an affordable price for the Blackhawks and a perfect two-year window for Hinostroza to prove himself as a potential building block beyond the 2019-20 season and cash out on a long-term deal when he's hitting the prime of his hockey career.

"I want to make it clear our No. 1 priority as we move forward is to make sure we can keep these young players — [Alex] DeBrincat and [Nick] Schmaltz and Hinostroza and some other young players that are going to maybe join our team over the next year or two," Bowman said at the end of the season. "That's the direction that we're headed, and we want those guys to be Blackhawks and to take a bigger role."

Knowing he's locked up for the next two seasons with a new contract that saw his salary double, Hinostroza has shifted his focus to do exactly what Bowman and the Blackhawks are expected of him: taking on a bigger role, while not having to look over his shoulder this time.

"I think I'm just going to play my game," Hinostroza said. "In the past years I've been on my entry level, so I didn't know where I was going to be to start the season. I was worried about making the team, whereas coming into this next year I really want to focus on making an impact for this team and helping this team win, not just making the team. I have bigger goals for myself and this team, so I'm really excited."

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

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WATCH: Blackhawks draft pick Kirby Dach throws out the first pitch at Wrigley in his first trip to Chicago

WATCH: Blackhawks draft pick Kirby Dach throws out the first pitch at Wrigley in his first trip to Chicago

Kirby Dach was taken by the Blackhawks with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft on Friday.

On Monday, the Blackhawks introduced him to the city of Chicago. Dach took his first trip to Chicago for his introductory press conference.

Later in the day, the Canadian threw out the first pitch at the Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Dach didn't throw a strike, but it wasn't a blooper reel pitch either.

Watch Dach's first pitch in the video above.

 

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