Blackhawks interested in re-signing Sam Lafferty, who would ‘love to come back’

Lafferty is a pending unrestricted free agent, but the Hawks have liked his play, and he should be affordable to re-sign.

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Sam Lafferty is a pending unrestricted free agent the Blackhawks would like to re-sign.

AP Photo/David Becker

Forward Sam Lafferty, a pending unrestricted free agent, is likely to stay with the Blackhawks this summer.

General manager Kyle Davidson and Lafferty each sound eager for the parties to work out a new contract.

Said Davidson on Friday: ‘‘I think he can [fit into our future], for sure. He has been great. He has really impressed and fit in, and his style of play is endearing. It’s not dissimilar to the [Brandon] Hagel discussion. That style of play is admired and coveted around the league. And so, as a UFA, he’s got the right to explore if he wishes. But I’d say we’d be interested in bringing Sam back.’’

And said Lafferty on Sunday: ‘‘I’d love to come back. I love it here. It’s a really good fit. I love the city, I love the team, the organization — everything.’’

Lafferty, 27, is finishing a two-year contract with a $750,000 salary-cap hit that he signed with the Penguins in 2020.

This will be his first time as a UFA — ‘‘I’m new to this,’’ he admitted Friday — and he hasn’t decided yet what length of contract he would prefer. He plans to leave most of the work to his agent, Pete Rutili, but he should be fairly affordable to re-sign, regardless.

After all, Lafferty had fallen out of favor with the Penguins and was acquired just three months ago for wing Alex Nylander, who hasn’t made an NHL appearance to date in Pittsburgh. (He has 23 points in 35 games for the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate.) And Lafferty’s on-paper production — nine points in 44 games this season, including seven in 34 for the Hawks — is hardly eye-catching, either.

But his work ethic, forechecking ability and surprising deceptiveness have stood out beyond the statistics, and he lately seems to make at least one play in which he slices through the opposing defense every game.

Lafferty is clearly an underrated player with the potential to break out next season, which is exactly what the Hawks should be looking for at this early stage of their rebuild.

‘‘I’m getting more comfortable in certain areas, like holding on to the puck a little longer,’’ he said. ‘‘My offensive game is growing. There’s a need here for that, and I hope to be able to build [on that] and help the team that way.’’

Lafferty is the most likely to return among the members of the Hawks’ small UFA class, which also includes defensemen Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson, goalies Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia and forward Kurtis Gabriel. Outside of possibly the two goalies, it would be surprising to see any of the others re-signed.

Meanwhile, the Hawks’ restricted free-agent class — forwards Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, Kirby Dach, Philipp Kurashev and Reese Johnson and defenseman Caleb Jones on the NHL roster, plus four more (including defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk) in the AHL — is far more interesting.

Strome, Kubalik, Johnson and Jones hold arbitration rights, which gives them additional leverage and will make Davidson a bit more wary about extending them qualifying offers. The arbitration angle — something that didn’t apply to Strome and Kubalik in 2020, the last time they were RFAs — isn’t to be overlooked.

‘‘It’s a really complicated thing when players have salary arbitration and [we have to guess] what that [salary award] number might look like,’’ Davidson said about Kubalik specifically. ‘‘And it’s even more complicated when that contract year was maybe not what it has been in the past.

‘‘We’ll get into that with their agent and see where things land and try to determine if that fits the [Hawks’] financial structure.’’

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