PRAGUE — The Blackhawks solved one of their biggest impending headaches a year ahead of time by signing Alex DeBrincat to a three-year contract extension Thursday.
The new deal carries a relatively manageable $6.4 million annual salary cap hit.
“From the start, I always wanted to get it done early,” DeBrincat said. “I’m not really worried about it. When they came to offer us a contract, it was a pretty easy decision for me to get it done now and just focus on the season.”
“We’ve been talking back and forth for a little bit,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “At the end, it came together pretty quickly.”
DeBrincat has one year left with a paltry $778,333 cap hit, the final year of his entry-level contract, and was set to be a restricted free agent next summer, when the extension will now kick in.
The 21-year-old winger ranked in the top 10 in the NHL last season with 41 goals, and tallied 76 points overall. Since surprising falling to the second round of the 2016 draft, he’s steadily and impressively raised his stock, and he was paid appropriately for his impending stardom Thursday.
Plus, considering how universally difficult re-signing this summer’s class of RFAs proved to be around the league — three of the four headliners (Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point) held out into training camp before re-signing — Bowman was understandably eager to avoid a similar issue.
With this extension, the Hawks exchange lengthy term for a lower cap hit, which appears a wise exchange given the other expensive salaries they carry throughout the roster.
A longer-term DeBrincat contract, especially if signed after another excellent 2019-20 season, could have pushed into the $9 million to $10 million cap hit range.
“Certainly, the bridge deal allows the team some more flexibility over the next few years to have some cap management,” Bowman said. “And certainly, the player is going to be rewarded as you go. He’s certainly still well paid in the meantime, and he’s still pretty young when he hits his next deal as well.”
DeBrincat’s extension will expire simultaneously with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith’s existing contracts in 2023, an alignment intentional on Bowman’s part.
Dylan Strome, DeBrincat’s closest off-ice friend, remains on track to become an RFA in 2020, though the Hawks will logically hope to re-up him before then, too.
“That’s the next order of business,” Bowman said. “Whether we do it now or in a month or in six months, I can’t say at this point, but certainly that’s something we’ll take a look at.”