Blackhawks

Brent Seabrook agrees to long-term extension with Blackhawks

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Brent Seabrook agrees to long-term extension with Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have talked about how much Brent Seabrook has meant to them. Now they’ve made a long-term commitment to keep him.

The Blackhawks and Seabrook agreed to an eight-year extension worth $55 million on Saturday night. Seabrook, who’s in the final year of his current contract, was happy that the deal got done now.

“It’s a huge relief,” Seabrook said after the Blackhawks’ 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. “It was something I wanted to get done before the season started. I don’t know how the Blackhawks felt, but it shows [they had] a lot of confidence in me.”

Seabrook’s deal means the Blackhawks have their top defensive duo wrapped up for quite a while. Duncan Keith’s current deal expires at the end of the 2022-23 season, one season before Seabrook’s new extension will run out.

“Obviously I’ve played with Seabs for a long time. He’s been an unbelievable teammate and a great friend,” Keith said. “I’m happy to know we’ll play together for a long time.”

[MORE: Patient Marcus Kruger finally arrives in Chicago]

It also means the Blackhawks will probably be looking at cap issues again next season. But general manager Stan Bowman is willing to figure out the numbers to keep Seabrook long term.

“You can’t just go pick up a Brent Seabrook. If you don’t have someone like that, to be the performer that he is on the ice as well as the leader he is off the ice, if you don’t have Brent, you’re looking for the exact same player. We know what he’s all about,” Bowman said. “The salary cap is a puzzle that we all have to figure out. Every team faces those challenges. But I look at it as a great situation to be in.

"The hardest thing is to find talented players that are committed to winning. And when you have them, you do everything you can and then you make it work. There’ll be new challenges every year, but there was never a hesitation that we would bring Brent back.”

Seabrook will be 39 by the end of his new deal but Bowman wasn’t concerned with where the defenseman will be at that point in his career.

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Brent Seabrook jersey]

“You maybe could say that five to 10 years ago but if you watch these guys, a lot of these guys are in better condition at 30 than they were at 21 or 22. Just the commitment they have to training and to fitness and nutrition,” Bowman said. “I have no concerns with that. I’m very impressed with our guys and they show no signs of slowing down.”

Seabrook is the latest player who the Blackhawks have locked up long term. He could have tested the free-agent waters next summer but he wanted no part of that. He wanted to stay with the Blackhawks. Now he will.

“I liked the eight years. I want to finish my career here in Chicago. We’ve had a lot of success here. There’s no place I’d rather be and that’s what I expressed through my agent. I was very pleased when that happened,” Seabrook said. “I’d like to spend my whole career here. It’s up to me now to fulfill my end of the bargain and go from there, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."