Petr Mrazek appears headed toward being the third veteran to get an extension from the Chicago Blackhawks according to ESPN's Kevin Weekes.
The Blackhawks have already extended unofficial captain Nick Foligno and the team's co-leader in goals, Jason Dickinson. Both got two-year deals with salary cap hits at just over $4 million to keep them from being free agents this upcoming offseason.
Weekes is reporting that Mrazek will be next.
Extending Mrazek is the smart thing to do because of Arvid Soderblom's struggles.
Soderblom was supposed to have overtaken Mrazek for the No. 1 goaltender spot. Instead, Arvid has struggled in his first full NHL season. Soderblom has played better recently, but it is still not enough to feel confident that he will be winning a Vezina Trophy or the reason the Hawks win a Stanely Cup.
Drew Commeso has the potential to be a No. 1 goalie, but he still has not completed his first AHL season. He probably needs another full season in Rockford before he is ready to push Soderblom for the backup spot. That is how long it usually takes a goalie to develop.
Adam Gajan is the other high-ceiling netminder prospect the Blackhawks have, but he is years away from even being ready to play for the IceHogs.
That is why the Blackhawks need to extend Mrazek, who can be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, instead of trading him before the deadline. They need a bridge-starting goaltender.
Mrazek has posted a .906 save percentage behind a shaky blue line. Sure the defense has promising young players in Alex Vlasic and Kevin Korchinski, but they are still learning the ropes. On most nights Mrazek has to try to stop shots that guys like Jarred Tinordi allow to happen.
He does have a 3.04 goals-against average. However he is 12-16-1 and if he does not stop enough shots, the Blackhawks have no hope of winning.
Mrazek is this season's second most important player behind Connor Bedard.
Mrazek has also avoided his traditional trip to the injured reserve which has been a welcomed surprise. Injuries will always be a risk with Mrazek. If he can reach 40 games, he has had save percentages over .900. Staying healthy is all the Hawks need to do him during any possible extension.
As a bridge goalie, all he is being asked to do is keep the Blackhawks in games while the roster continues to be rebuilt. If he gets the same two-year extension, he will be 34 by the time the deal expires (he will be 32 in February). That is the perfect timeline as Commeso should be ready for the NHL. Maybe Soderblom might be ready to take the reins too as sometimes players just need time.
Buying time is what the Blackhawks will be doing if they extend Soderblom.