Blackhawks and Alex Vlasic agree to 6-year contract extension: Source

No player has earned more respect and created more optimism within the Blackhawks' locker room this season than defenseman Alex Vlasic.

The arrival of Connor Bedard may have changed the Blackhawks' future, but he was exactly what they expected. It lived up to the hype. On the other hand, when Vlasic entered his first full NHL season, no one was sure what to expect.

After one season, the 22-year-old Vlasic has opened their eyes with his ability to shut down opponents with his length, positioning and intelligence. He did it against everyone too. He became Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson's most trusted defender and faced the top lines at the highest rate.

In a recent poll, Blackhawks teammates voted Vlasic one of the team's most underrated players, optimistic about his potential, even as he has earned more respect league-wide.

The Blackhawks strengthened that possibility on Wednesday, as the team and Vlasic agreed to a six-year contract extension with a cap hit of $4.6 million, a league source said. Vlasic's contract will expire after the 2029-30 season.

Vlasic, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois, signed his first long-term contract during Kyle Davidson's tenure as Blackhawks general manager, becoming the first young player secured in Davidson's rebuilding puzzle.

Vlasic said a long-term extension with his hometown team is a dream come true.

“I would like to stay here as long as possible,” Vlasic said after the season. “It's amazing to be able to play for my hometown team, the same city I grew up in, so I'm not really looking to go anywhere else. So yeah, I want to stay here as long as possible, and (Davidson) knows that.”

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Vlasic's extension will also give him peace of mind as he travels to the Czech Republic to play for Team USA in the World Championships next month. Without a contract, he had to look into an insurance policy in case he was injured while playing for his country.

Vlasic is excited to represent the United States again and put himself in the conversation for upcoming international events. The tournament also represents an opportunity for him and fellow defenseman Seth Jones, who will also play for the USA National Team, to continue building on their chemistry as the Blackhawks' No. 1 duo.

Jones was among those impressed by Vlasic's season. Jones compared his experience playing with young Zach Werenski on the Columbus Blue Jackets to playing with Vlasic now.

“Flassie, playing with him all year, huge steps,” Jones said after the season. “I played with Werenski when he was 21, and they are two different players, but you see the same things there – me personally. Vlassie will be a very defensive player, and I have had a lot of fun playing with him this year.

Nick Foligno, another Blackhawks captain, had similar praise for Vlasic.

“I know we call it the 'Connor Bedard Era,' but I also call it the beginning of the 'Alex Era.' Vlasic “Ira, too, and what he’s done for our team already, and (Kevin) Korczynski,” Foligno said after the season.

Vlasic's analysis puts him in the elite category of defenders this season. Based on the Evolving Hockey Model, Vlasic was first among all defensemen in overall defensive goals above substitution and second in even-strength defense. Vlasic also finished top The athleteBlackhawks net rating model among all Blackhawks players.

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“It's been unbelievable from day one what he's accomplished this year,” Richardson said of Vlasic after the season. “Being in a senior duo role with Seth, I think they complement each other well. And with their range and reach, I think they defended really well. But both of them, at times, can come up the ice and add to the offense.”

Richardson hopes Vlasic can add more attacking power in the future as well. He scored two goals and provided 14 assists in 76 matches this season. He had a few defectors whom he was unable to convert.

“I know Vlassie was a little disappointed that he didn't finish more offensively, but that will come,” Richardson said. “I thought he started shooting the puck better at the end of the year and he was going to have one of those shorthanded breakaways one of these times. But with the composure he played with and his skating ability, he stole pucks from everywhere and turned them into a line rusher. It was something Unbelievable to see and he's only 22 and now he's going to start filling in because he's so long and so wide. If he keeps his skating, lateral skating, mobility and gains another 10 or 15 pounds of solid muscle and strength, he's going to be tough to play against. certainly.

And now, Vlasic is certain he will do just that with the Blackhawks.

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(Photo: Sergey Belsky/USA Today)

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