I once had a supervisor who would say "Murphy has entered the room" when things started to go wrong with a situation. Is that the case with the Blackhawks re-upping with Connor Murphy given constant criticisms of general manager Stan Bowman purportedly miscalculating on salary, term, or both during contract negotiations?
Murphy renewed with the Hawks for 4 years at $4.4M AAV starting in 2022-23. This season he will earn $3.85M so he garnered a 14.3% raise in salary which is appreciatively team friendly. He will be 32 when his next contract expires and entering the back nine of his NHL career. His contract also has no bonuses whatsoever.
Alongside newly acquired Seth Jones and Jake McCabe, this trio will make up the new veteran D core for at least the next 4 seasons. Individually and collectively they bring size, strength, grit, leadership, and experience for a blueline that will progressively add youth in the coming years.
While far from ever being the next Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, the Hawks need to start somewhere plus the organization and fanbase also need to let go of and stop living in the past. Nostalgia has its place but is problematic when it hinders growth in the present and future.
Additionally, starting from somewhere isn't so bad with a nucleus of Jones, Murphy, and McCabe. If Calvin de Haan is able to stay healthy, then he wouldn't be a bad rearguard in the 4th spot similar to Johnny Oduya. Both have (had) their consistency issues but are (were) reliable defensively when on their game.
Who are these vets paving the way for? The future includes a subset of youngsters like Wyatt Kalynuk, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, Wyatt Kaiser, Alex Vlasic, and Nolan Allan. There are also 3rd pair types who could be contributors in less heralded roles like Jakub Galvas, Chad Krys, and Isaak Phillips.
A question that arises is whether Murphy blocks Mitchell's path on the right side of the back line. Not really. Murphy may start to degrade incrementally in say year 3 or 4 of his new deal which is when Mitchell could be entering his prime. So at that point, the simplest decision is to slot Mitchell higher on the D pairs.
Besides Mitchell, the other RHD in the system are Alec Regula, Michael Krutil, Louis Crevier, and Connor Kelley. Regula may have the best chance out of this cohort while the rest are lower on the prospect depth chart and may struggle to carve a niche in the NHL or just be the victim of a numbers game with the Hawks.
Back to Murphy, he also doesn't have a NMC or NTC in his new contract so he is a fairly tradeable asset assuming his body holds up from some of the nagging injuries that he has. Luckily he's never on the shelf for long when sidelined. A veteran RHD in his young 30's with a $4.4M price tag is a commodity in the NHL.
After monstrous contracts given recently to other RHD in Seabrook and Jones, there was apprehension with what Bowman would dole out to secure key cogs on the roster. Yet, after yesterday's news of Murphy's re-signing with reasonable dollars and years given his value to the team, there really is nothing to dislike about it.
Sure, Murphy could sustain a serious injury or the wheels just come flying off but that could be said about any player. More importantly, the Hawks needed a new Big 3 to replace the historic Big 3 of Keith, Seabrook, and Hjalmarsson. All NHL teams need a Big 3. The Hawks Big 3 may not be elite but they're one you can go to war with.
Who is up next as far as the Blackhawks locking up a player longer term once their current contract expires within the next year?
The answer is unequivocally Dominik Kubalik.
The current hubbub this week around the Hurricanes offer sheeting Jesperi Kotkaniemi for one season at $6.1M may potentially set a bar for the future for other players regardless of whether the Canadiens match or take the compensatory 1st and 3rd round picks. The Habs need to decide by this Saturday.
If Kubalik were to be offer sheeted, the likely ranges would be either $4,110,733 to $6,166,096 which results in compensatory 1st and 3rd round picks or $6,166,097 to $8,221,463 which results in compensatory 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks. Click here for the full offer sheet calculcator by CapFriendly
Pretending for a second that Kubalik is offer sheeted, then I personally would lean towards letting him walk and take the compensatory picks. However, if the Hawks covet him enough, then it's in their best interest to negotiate a sensible contract renewal at some point between now and say the trade deadline.
Beyond Kubalik, there is a list of other current players and prospects who are on expiring contracts that need new paperwork to stick around the organization. Kirby Dach headlines the list but there are also several other forwards as well as defensemen and especially goalies as there are no netminders signed beyond 2021-22.
* Ryan Carpenter: likely not retained
* Adam Gaudette: depends on this season
* Philipp Kurashev: likely re-signed
* Alex Nylander: depends on this season
* Dylan Strome: depends on this season
* Calvin de Haan: likely not retained
* Caleb Jones: depends on this season
* Wyatt Kalynuk: likely re-signed
* Marc-Andre Fleury: depends on what he wants
* Collin Delia: likely not retained
* Kevin Lankinen: likely re-signed
* Malcolm Subban: likely not retained
* Andrei Altybarmakian: depends on this season
* Matej Chalupa: likely not retained
* Reese Johnson: depends on this season
* Cam Morrison: depends on this season
* Chad Krys: depends on this season
See you on the boards!