Blackhawks’ Sam Lafferty, after contract extension, will be ‘big part of the rebuild’

BUFFALO, N.Y. –That didn’t take long.

Less than a month after Blackhawks forward Sam Lafferty and general manager Kyle Davidson made clear their mutual interest in re-signing, the Hawks announced Friday a two-year contract extension for Lafferty with a $1.15 million salary cap hit.

“I’m just really grateful,” Lafferty said. “Things weren’t looking that great for me for a little while there in Pittsburgh, but people here [in Chicago] believed in me. I’ve got to keep proving them right.”

Lafferty’s production –11 points in 45 games –doesn’t pop off the page, but his combination of intense work ethic and subtle skill have been impressive.

His ability to beat defenders one-on-one to create opportunities for himself is a rare trait on this Hawks roster. Only Alex DeBrincat has produced more individual scoring chances (per 60 even-strength minutes) than Lafferty has since his Hawks debut Jan. 13.

He is already 27, but he seems like a potentially late-blooming impact NHL player.

“That was a great signing,” said interim coach Derek King, one of Lafferty’s biggest supporters all season. “He’s going to be a big part of the rebuild. He’s the kind of player you need. [He] brings some energy; he’s a good character kid. He’s got a lot of upside to him.”

“Sam’s speed and up-tempo style is the brand of hockey we hope to see the team play over the coming years,” Davidson said in a statement. “Sam adds a dynamic to our roster that allows him to fit seamlessly throughout the lineup and give our coaches a reliable forward that can be trusted in nearly every situation.”

Raddysh vs. Hagel

Speaking of trades with encouraging early results, the much-discussed Brandon Hagel trade also looks wise so far.

Taylor Raddysh –just one of four assets the Hawks acquired from the Lightning –has singlehandedly outscored Hagel since trade day.

Raddysh tallied 10 points in his first 20 Hawks games after scoring twice Wednesday. Hagel, conversely, is off to a slow start in Tampa, having recorded just six points in his first 21 games. Hagel’s playoff performance will matter far more, but the Lightning will certainly want him to pick up the pace.

Dach needs reset

There’s no fair way to characterize Kirby Dach’s third NHL season other than as an abject disappointment. He finished with only nine goals and 17 assists in 70 games.

But Dach is still only 21 years old –six years younger than Lafferty and 2.5 years younger than Hagel, for reference. He has time to turn things around. He just needs a mental reset this summer.

“He needs to just clear his mind, get away from the game for a little bit and come back refreshed,” King said.

Johnson does, too

To conclude his extremely chaotic season, Tyler Johnson finally found some stability the last two weeks. Entering Friday, he’d played in seven straight games, tallying three points, averaging 14:40 of ice time and prompting King to admit, “I wish I had him all year.”

This upcoming offseason, which will be much longer than his last two since they followed the Lightning’s Stanley Cup runs, should be crucial for him.

“I can’t wait to get some training in me,” Johnson said. “[The] last couple years, I’ve played a lot of hockey [and] really haven’t had any off time — or any time — to get my body back where I want to be. With the surgery, it set me back a little bit. … It’s gonna be a pretty exciting time.”

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