Alex Vlasic is having an outstanding first full NHL season for the Chicago Blackhawks.
It could not come at a better time for him personally as he is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason.
Blackhawks Sun-Times beat reporter Ben Pope recently wrote that Vlasic should get a nice bump in pay based on comparable players' contracts.
The issue Pope pointed out is whether the Blackhawks give him a long-term deal or go with a shorter length.
Being six-foot, six-inches, and turning 23 in the offseason along with being a homegrown player should be a slam dunk for a long-term deal. The issue is general manager Kyle Davidson prefers to have as much salary cap flexibility in the long run as possible.
Sure, right now the Hawks have a massive amount of cap space, but that can change in a couple of seasons when players like Connor Bedard and Kevin Korchinski reach their second and even third deals. Hawks fans know all too well about how a team can suddenly be in a cap trouble. It gets even worse when a player is signed to a bad, long-term deal like Brian Bickell or Brent Seabrook.
At the same time, Vlasic is showing on a nightly basis he is a core player for the next great Blackhawks team. The young defenseman is quickly developing into a shutdown defender.
He is averaging 21:04 minutes of ice time. If he qualified as an official rookie, Vlasic would only be behind Minnesota Wild defenseman Brock Faber in that category. Faber is considered to be a Calder Trophy contender. Vlasic has skated over 24 minutes in three of his past five games.
Vlasic has 81 blocked shots, 32 takeaways, and just 26 giveaways. Those takeaways put him top on the team among the blue-liners. His on-ice save percentage is 92.9%. No other Hawks' defenseman who has played more than 25 games has a better percentage. His advanced stat card looks amazing too.
His offensive game still needs some work, but his nine assists are second on the team among the defensive unit. Korchinski has only eight and he is always thought of as the superior offensive player among the two.
Those two have proven they are the foundation of the blue line for the next decade. Since they are so young, Vlasic and Korchinski should only get better much like what we saw with Duncan Keith and Seabrook. This is not to say they will become those two, although it would be great if they became future Hall of Famers. It is just giving a reference for identifying foundational talent and then keeping said talent around for as long as possible.
Yes, there is the risk of regression, injury, or plateauing if he is signed to a long contract. Vlasic also might not want to commit to a long-term deal as it could cost him in the long run. If he is open to the idea of wanting more years on his next contract, the Blackhawks need to give it to him.