The Blackhawks’ depth chart of bottom-six forwards became more clear Friday as Dylan Sikura and John Quenneville signed new two-year contracts.
The contracts are structured identically: a $750,000 NHL cap hit for both seasons, with a two-way clause in the first year (meaning a lower AHL salary) and a one-way clause the second year (meaning equal salary at any level).
On one hand, it’s a sign of commitment to both players that the contracts will automatically convert into one-way deals next summer — an arguably surprising amount of commitment, given that Sikura has played just 38 career NHL games and Quenneville only 33.
But on the other hand, the two-year deals should benefit the Hawks, in that neither player will be able to demand a raise in 2020-21 even if he breaks out. Also, if both players get waived and sent to the AHL in 2021-22 they would not count against the cap.
Quenneville’s re-signing indicates that his acquisition from the Devils last weekend entailed more than the Hawks unloading John Hayden. The 23-year-old cousin of Joel Quenneville tallied one point in 19 NHL games last season but stood out in his advanced metrics compared to the rest of his Devils teammates. He also excelled offensively in the AHL.
Sikura, 24, will bring a similar resume into training camp — fantastic in the AHL (35 points in 46 games for Rockford last season) but yet to stick in the NHL (no goals in 38 appearances so far) — but Hawks management seems optimistic about his future.
“Looking at some of our young players that are getting ready to take on a bigger role, you can look at guys like Dylan Sikura,” general manager Stan Bowman said earlier this month. “He didn’t have the offensive success at the NHL level, but I liked the way he played when he was with us last year in Chicago. It felt like his game was real effective other than the production part.”
Both players have decent odds of making the Hawks’ roster in training camp, with only five forwards currently signed to one-way deals. They’ll join European newcomers Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin, fellow taxi-squad rider Alexandre Fortin and others in the competition for third- and fourth-line roles.