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Blackhawks sign top prospect John Hayden to 2-year contract

Hayden will report to Chicago now that he’s wrapped up his senior year at Yale.

Finland v USA Blue - 2014 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp

The Chicago Blackhawks have agreed to a two-year entry-level contract with top prospect John Hayden, the team announced Sunday. The contract runs through the 2017-18 season, then the forward will become a restricted free agent.

Hayden, who got a two-year contract from the Blackhawks because he’s already 22 years old, will report immediately to the NHL. He’s eligible for the playoffs, and Joel Quenneville said Sunday that he’ll get some playing time with the Hawks to show what he can do.

The 2013 third-round pick just finished his senior year at Yale University, which meant he could’ve hit the open market in August like we saw from Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes in past years.

The Blackhawks tried to sign Hayden last summer, but he declined in favor of returning to Yale as team captain. The forward had a big year with the Bulldogs, putting up career-highs across the board with 21 goals and 13 assists in 33 games. As a big (6’3, 223 pounds) center who can finish in front, he could make an impact in the near future as a net front presence in Chicago.

Most players who sign entry-level contracts get the full three seasons, but Hayden was limited to two years given his age. Now the forward will have a chance at a raise following the 2017-18 season, when he won’t be limited by the rules of an entry-level deal.

Hayden will join the Blackhawks’ active roster given there’s no limit for how many players you can have after the trade deadline. The team may need to make a move to figure out its cap situation with him in the fold given it only has $792,137 in current space, per Cap Friendly, but this is still an exciting last-minute addition to the roster.