The Chicago Blackhawks have obviously enjoyed what they’ve seen from Sam Lafferty down the stretch, as the team has signed him to a two-year contract extension. The deal will carry a $1.15MM cap hit and keeps Lafferty from becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Acquired in January from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Lafferty has found himself playing more in Chicago than he ever has before. Averaging nearly 15 minutes a night in 45 appearances, he has racked up five goals and 101 hits for the Blackhawks this season. That never-ending work ethic and willingness to forecheck has been a refreshing sight, especially given the player that Chicago traded for him.
There have been high hopes for Alexander Nylander since he was selected eighth overall in 2016, but he’s now on his third NHL organization without any real success. The Buffalo Sabres first selected him and saw an inconsistent effort through several seasons, before eventually flipping him to the Blackhawks for Henri Jokiharju (a trade that looks quite good for them now). In Chicago he was given a chance to play regularly, but a serious injury cost him any real career momentum and he’s now back in the minor leagues with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Of course, Lafferty isn’t being brought back to really change the look of the Blackhawks’ forward group. With general manager Kyle Davidson promising a rebuild, players like the 27-year-old can fill out the depth chart for a few years until some younger talent is ready to take over. Ultimately, his job is to stay competitive but kind of bridge the gap between the struggles and the success, all while potentially being a deadline chip down the road.
For the player, though, it’s easy to see why an extension would be appealing. Lafferty’s highest salary to this point in his career was the $800K he made this season, meaning a $1.15MM average annual value is a nice little upgrade. It also likely secures him some playing time at the NHL level, something that certainly wasn’t guaranteed elsewhere. In 139 career games, he has 32 points.
Mark Lazerus of The Athletic was first to report the deal.