Blackhawks’ Adam Boqvist plays in 10th NHL game, officially starting the clock on his entry-level contract
The Hawks’ top defensive prospect will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2022 instead of the summer of 2023.
A fact that had become increasingly clear in the last week is now official: The Blackhawks are committed to making rookie Adam Boqvist an NHL defenseman this season.
Boqvist, 19, played in his 10th NHL game Sunday against the Wild, guaranteeing that the first year of his three-year entry-level contract will kick in this season. That means the contract will expire in the summer of 2022 rather than in the summer of 2023, making him a restricted free agent that offseason.
It was a calculated decision on the Hawks’ end. Despite bouncing back and forth between Rockford and Chicago this fall, Boqvist has seen his role on the Hawks increase dramatically in recent games, thanks to the absences of Duncan Keith and Calvin de Haan, and has a promising opportunity to cement his role as a full-time NHL player.
With Boqvist reaping minutes and experience so rapidly right now, sending him down to the minors again to save a contract year wouldn’t make much sense. The Hawks made this same decision with center Kirby Dach earlier this season with an equal lack of hesitation.
‘‘As far as coach perspective, we like him,’’ coach Jeremy Colliton said Sunday. ‘‘I think he’s played well, and it’s an opportunity, with some injuries, to give him some ice time. He’s handled it well so far.’’
Of note now is the 40-game milestone. If Boqvist spends 40 games on the roster (he’s at 11 now), 2019-20 will count as an ‘‘accrued season.’’ That means he would become eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2026 (seven accrued seasons).
More patience with Nylander
A day after committing an egregious defensive-zone turnover that jump-started the Blues’ comeback, wing Alex Nylander was elevated, not demoted, for the game against the Wild.
Nylander was moved to a high-firepower line with Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome for the Hawks’ return home after skating on lower lines throughout their recent road trip. The switch resulted in Nylander assisting on a goal by Kane in the first period.
The young forward has enjoyed a generous leash from the Hawks despite his recent lack of productivity. To his credit, he has been honest about his struggles and about his need to make changes.
A month after leaving his post as Rockford’s captain, former Hawks wing Kris Versteeg was honored with ‘‘One More Shift’’ before the game.
Versteeg became the third retired Hawks player to be so honored this season, joining Dave Bolland and Brian Campbell.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner appeared to be holding back some emotions as he stood alongside captain Jonathan Toews during the national anthem.
Versteeg was granted mutual termination of his American Hockey League contract Nov. 17 after dealing with recurring injuries and running into a mental wall during the early portions of the IceHogs’ season. He told reporters at the time he felt guilty about occupying a roster spot and keeping a hungry prospect out of the lineup.
‘‘If I’m in there and I’m not pulling my weight — and I know I’m not — then it’s not fair to them,’’ he said at the time.