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Blackhawks open to using first season of Ian Mitchell’s entry-level contract now

The defenseman prospect is not eligible to compete in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers or Playoffs.

2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Championships - Semifinals Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

Ian Mitchell is not eligible to play for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers or Playoffs, but the team is open to the defenseman prospect using the first season of his entry-level contract.

The window for Mitchell to sign with the Blackhawks opened at 11 a.m. Central time Monday (the third day after the Collective Bargaining Agreement goes into effect) and runs through 4 p.m. July 15 (the fifth day after CBA goes into effect). If he signs for this season, he would use the first season of his entry-level contract, even though he won’t be eligible to play during the qualifiers or playoffs.

“We’ve talked to his agent about that and I think we’re getting close to a decision point on that,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Monday during a video interview with media at Fifth Third Arena. “We’re certainly open either one, whatever really works best for Ian. There’s plus and minuses to both, to burning the year and not burning the year.

Unfortunately, he’s not eligible to play for us right now which would’ve been nice. I would expect within the next day or two we’ll have more information on that. He is going to sign with us. It’s just a matter of whether it’s a current year or future year.”

Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov, Blues defenseman Scott Perunovich and Canadiens defenseman Alexander Romanov were in similar situations to Mitchell. Kaprizov and Romanov opted to sign for the current year and burn a year to join their teams for Phase 3 (training camps), while St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong announced Perunovich will sign a two-year deal beginning in 2020-21.

Mitchell, a second-round pick (No. 57) in the 2017 NHL Draft, led all University of Denver defensemen in goals (10), assists (22) and points (32) in 36 games during his junior season. The 21-year-old helped Canada win the Spengler Cup in December in Davos, Switzerland, scoring one goal and one assist in four games.

If Mitchell signs for the current year, he would be eligible to participate in training camp and could travel with the Blackhawks to Edmonton on July 26 but wouldn’t play in games. Chicago (32-30-8, .514 points percentage) enters the qualifiers as the No. 12 seed in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks will play the No. 5 seed, the Oilers (37-25-9; .585) in one of the eight best-of-five series, with the winner advancing to the playoffs and the loser having a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery.

The series starts Friday, Aug. 1.

Mitchell’s contract can’t include a signing bonus or performance bonus payable this season. It can contain a signing bonus payable next season, as long as it’s dated to be paid after the opening of this offseason free agent signing period, which starts following the 2020 NHL Draft (scheduled for Oct. 9-10) and the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final.