Chicago Blackhawks extend a key piece to their future success in Alex Vlasic

He was fantastic during his first full NHL season.
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks locked up a key piece critical to their future success.

Defenseman Alex Vlasic agreed to a six-year contract extension with an annual cap hit of $4.6 million.

The hometown kid gets to stay with the hometown team through the rest of this decade. He stays at a relatively cap-friendly deal.

Vlasic was set to be a restricted free agent this offseason. Instead, he is the first of the young talented players the Hawks have to re-sign long-term. The deal should help the Hawks reach the spending floor next season.

Vlasic was outstanding in his first full NHL season, especially on the defensive end. Had he qualified for the Calder Trophy, he could make a case for consideration like the Minnesota Wild's Brock Faber is getting.

The big defenseman averaged 21:29 of ice time. That was good for second on the team. Vlasic had 14 assists on the season.

Vlasic's development also provides a road map for how the Hawks should develop the rest of their blueliners.

The second-round pick in the 2019 draft spent three years at Boston University and then played the majority of his first two professional seasons with the Hawks' AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.

It would not be surprising to see the Hawks use the same plan with Sam Rinzel, the Hawks' 2022 first-round pick currently at Minnesota, and Ethan Del Mastro, who has played well in his first season with the IceHogs and got a brief call-up.

The key is the Hawks were patient with Vlasic and he rewarded them by developing into a defenseman worthy of being on the top-pair.

He still needs to work on his offensive game, but the Hawks at least have a blueliner who is really good at the primary job objective--playing defense. More importantly they have a player vital toward becoming a Stanley Cup contender on the team for the rest of this decade.