When Vinnie Hinostroza was acquired from the Florida Panthers ahead of the NHL trade deadline in April, the Blackhawks expected him to be a contributor in some capacity. But they probably didn't expect him to play as well as he did.
In 17 games with the Blackhawks, Hinostroza registered four goals and eight assists while averaging 13:34 of ice time. Only Alex DeBrincat (20) and Patrick Kane (17) had more points than Hinostroza (12) since the acquisition, and all 12 of his points came at even strength.
For reference, Hinostroza had zero points in nine games with the Panthers and legitimately started to question his future in the NHL, by his own admission.
"Obviously in Florida I wasn’t playing too much, I didn’t have a role there," Hinostroza said on April 17. "You think about being in the NHL and what it means and how you work your whole life to be here. For me, I just wanted to come in and be the hardest working player every day, whether it’s practice or a game, not taking being out there wearing a sweater every night for granted. It’s something I’ll never take for granted again."
Not only did Hinostroza's second stint in Chicago prove he still has what it takes to play at the NHL level, but he showed he can absolutely be an impactful player on a team if it’s the right fit. It’s why the marriage between Hinostroza and the Blackhawks has been successful, and it’s also why both sides should be interested in an extension.
Hinostroza, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, is coming off a one-year, $1 million deal and previously played on a two-year, $3 million contract. It’s difficult to see him getting much more than that on the open market, given the financial climate that will see the salary cap stay flat for years to come.
A short-term extension between $1-1.5 million annually would be a win-win for both sides: Hinostroza stays in his hometown city, where he's played some of his best hockey, and the Blackhawks retain a spark-plug middle-six winger who can play anywhere in the lineup at a low cost. Call it a low-risk, medium-sized reward.
The potential mini wrinkle in the negotiations is the Seattle expansion draft.
The Blackhawks must submit their protected list of players by July 17 (the actual draft is on July 21). If Hinostroza is re-signed before then, the Blackhawks would have to include him on their list or leave him unprotected. The team would probably feel more comfortable getting something done after, but there’s a potential risk in waiting that long.
NHL free agency opens on July 28, seven days after the expansion draft, which means Hinostroza would then be free to talk to all 32 teams if he's without a contract at that point. But if both the player and the Blackhawks recognize the value in continuing their partnership, it would be wise to get it done before the frenzy.
"I think everyone can see that all these young guys came in and took major steps this year," Hinostroza said. "Even when I wasn’t with the team, watching NHL Network and watching some games you could just see how excited they are and how hard they’re working and the steps they took all year to get better every day. It’s great to see and I know every guy in there is still hungry. I know everyone’s going to have big summers and come back and take another step next year. ... I love this team and we have a great group here."