The Chicago Blackhawks locked up another piece of their blue line for the foreseeable future on Tuesday morning, announcing a 4-year contract extension for veteran defenseman Connor Murphy.
The deal carries an annual salary cap hit of $4.4 million and does not start until the 2022-23 season. This signing keeps Murphy from hitting unrestricted free agency next season, as he enters ‘21-22 on the final year of a 6-year, $23.1 million ($3.85 million AAV) that he signed with the Coyotes back in July 2016.
Did you know that Murphy has the fourth longest tenure out of any Blackhawks on the current roster?
He’s obviously well behind Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in terms of games played in Chicago, but the only other player ahead of Murphy’s 236 games with the Blackhawks is Alex DeBrincat with 286. They’ve actually been with the team for the same length of time but injuries have kept Murphy out of the lineup more often than DeBrincat, otherwise those numbers may be even closer.
The injuries are the only real concern with Murphy, as he’s missed varying portions of each of the last three seasons. He played just 52 of a possible 82 games in ‘18-19, although his availability trended upward by playing in 58 of 70 in ‘19-20 and 50 of 56 last season. When on the ice, though, he’s been productive.
His average ice time last season was 22:09, second only to Duncan Keith’s 23:25 among Chicago defenseman. He didn’t produce much offensively (3G, 12A) but that’s never been a focal point of Murphy’s game. His value is in his defensive play, and Murphy’s been one of the better defensive defenseman since arriving in the Niklas Hjalmarsson trade in 2017. The player card from JFreshHockey below has Murphy in the 80th percentile of the defenseman, which effectively places him in the top fifth of blue-liners in the league:
The long-term projection below from Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic (as shared by his colleague Scott Powers) shows that Murphy’s production should be right in line with his salary cap hit for the duration of the contract.
This deal cements Murphy as a fixture on the Chicago blue line along with offseason acquisitions in Seth Jones and Jake McCabe. How well that trio performs should be a pretty good indicator of the success or failure of this iteration of Blackhawks hockey.