The team has re-signed the 31-year-old goaltender to a two-year, $8.5 million contract extension. It is a well-deserved contract for Mrazek after having a solid season. He is sporting a 3.01 goals-against average (GAA) and a .907 save percentage (SV%), with a 12-17-1 record in 30 starts. He has been the reason the Blackhawks have remained afloat and has kept games close. He is putting up the best numbers he has seen in four years, and the team is looking forward to keeping it going.
Blackhawks Retain Their “Rock”
When the signing was announced on Jan. 24, general manager Kyle Davidson stated, “Petr is a strong goaltender who continues to display the athleticism and calming style of play that has made him so successful in this league. He’s had an immense impact within our group, and we’re excited to have him back.”
Mrazek hasn’t always had it easy in the NHL, with a lot of ups and downs. He seemed to put up great seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes but had dealt with injuries and was continually looking to regain form. His stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs, in which he got a three-year, $11.4 million contract, took the brunt of the struggles. Ultimately, he was traded to the Blackhawks in July 2022 in a package that included a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft (which Chicago used to draft defenseman Sam Rinzel). He was essentially a cap dump by the Maple Leafs that the Hawks took advantage of.
It seemed like Mrazek’s stint with the Blackhawks last season was going to be more of the same as it was with the Maple Leafs because he was still struggling with groin injuries, and his numbers were not great, with a 10-22-3 record, with a 3.66 GAA and a .894 SV%. He and the team were hoping he could turn it around as the team’s true number-one goaltender this year, and he did. The team has so much confidence that every time he plays, he will give them a chance to win and keep them in games they sometimes have no business being in.
Connor Bedard referred to him in a postgame interview as their “rock,” and he is absolutely correct. The team hoped he could have a better year. I don’t think they were expecting this version of him. He plays with so much heart and energy; it’s infectious. You can see how much fun he is having. Even from the Vancouver Canucks game on Jan. 22, where he jokingly waved his glove in front of Canucks’ forward Conor Garland’s face so he couldn’t see.
On top of that, he is making insane saves and has taken his game to another level. He had a three-game stretch earlier this month, only allowing seven goals combined against the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, and Edmonton Oilers. The Blackhawks give up the third-most goals in the NHL, averaging 3.35 goals-against per game, but Mrazek has been unfazed against some of the best offenses in the NHL.
This resurgence is also an enormous credit to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite, who Mrazek said helped change his game and keep him healthy.
Blackhawks Re-Signing Mrazek Is Worth the Risk for the Future
There were two concerns with re-signing Mrazek. The first concern was the trade deadline in March. Here is something we have learned in the past from goaltenders at the trade deadline: the returns are usually disappointing. No matter how good a netminder is doing, teams usually don’t want to dole out a bunch of assets for “rentals,” which is generally what goaltenders are at the deadline. Remember when the Blackhawks traded Marc-Andre Fleury to the Minnesota Wild in March 2022? The Blackhawks got a conditional second-round pick (Hawks drafted center Ryan Greene). When they traded Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights in February 2020, the Blackhawks got Malcolm Subban, Slava Demin, and a second-round draft pick (Hawks drafted goaltender Drew Commesso).
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The Blackhawks made it out fine in those trades, as they potentially got their goaltender of the future and a promising forward with Commesso and Greene, but in both cases, it was originally thought the packages could have been greater. So, it is worth weighing the pros and cons of trading goalies. Mrazek was more valuable on the team than off in the Blackhawks’ case. They could have gotten a draft pick and maybe a prospect, but they would have been looking for another goalie in free agency and would have been back to square one trying to fill that hole. It wasn’t worth it.
Secondly, the team’s goaltending for next season is questionable. Commesso could possibly use another year with the Rockford IceHogs, Adam Gajan (2023 second-round pick) will be with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Jaxson Stauber will be a free agent, and there are still questions about backup goaltender Arvid Söderblom. So, they need a veteran who can lead the way until management figures out their prospects. There are concerns that Mrazek alternates good and bad seasons, but is that a big concern for Chicago next season? I think not. At this point, they don’t need perfection. They need stability.
The $4.25 million cap hit isn’t an issue, either. The Blackhawks have the cap space (over $18 million), and the two-year term brings little downside.
Overall, Mrazek earned his payday. He is playing fantastic hockey, and best of all, he wants to be in Chicago, stating, “I love it here. Everybody knows it. I said it publicly before that it’s one of the best places I’ve been in the NHL. So, why not continue that?” He makes a great mentor for the prospects and Söderblom, and it gives management one less headache of trying to fill a spot when they can focus on other areas over the summer, including forwards. Keeping him was the correct move. He was another salary cap dump trade with little expectations that ended up being exactly what the team needs for now.
Pretty impressive. Who doesn’t love a good comeback story?