TOOK LONG ENOUGH

Hawks fi­nally ink con­tract with Mitchell, also add free agents Suter, Ka­lynuk

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BEN POPE bpope@sun­times.com | @BenPopeCST

The Black­hawks an­nounced a trio of sign­ings Thurs­day — in­clud­ing top prospect Ian Mitchell af­ter a pro­longed process.

Mitchell, a de­fense­man, will of­fi­cially join the Hawks at the start of the 2020-21 sea­son, and his three­year en­try-level con­tract will last through the 2022-23 sea­son.

The NHL made all play­ers signed af­ter March 12 — the date the sea­son stopped be­cause of the coro­n­avirus — in­el­i­gi­ble to com­pete in the restarted play­offs this sum­mer. How­ever, play­ers could still sign and then ef­fec­tively burn one of their three years just to prac­tice with their new team for a few weeks — an op­tion the Wild’s top prospect, Kir­ill Kapri­zov, chose when he signed ear­lier this week.

By con­trast, the Hawks will end up get­ting a third year of Mitchell at a cheap $925,000 cap hit, which could be in­valu­able in a stag­nant era for the NHL salary cap.

The de­ci­sion con­cludes a long saga around sign­ing Mitchell that dates back to last sum­mer, when Mitchell re­jected gen­eral man­ager Stan Bow­man’s sign­ing at­tempt in or­der to re­turn for his ju­nior year at Den­ver Univer­sity. Mitchell, 21, was un­of­fi­cially signed in April, but the con­tract couldn’t be filed with­out a start date.

Mitchell was one of the best play­ers in col­lege hockey each of the last two sea­sons and projects as a top-four de­fense­man at the NHL level, a role he could step into as soon as Novem­ber.

The Hawks also signed two free agents — Wy­att Ka­lynuk, an­other col­lege hockey prod­uct, and Pius Suter, a Euro­pean league im­port.

Suter’s ad­di­tion marks the sec­ond straight year the Hawks landed the top scorer in Switzer­land’s Na­tional League. And if Suter, 24, has a de­but sea­son any­thing like his pre­de­ces­sor’s, Calder Tro­phy fi­nal­ist Do­minik Kuba­lik, he’ll be a smash hit. He comes to Chicago af­ter five con­sec­u­tive years with Zurich SC. He ripped off 30 goals and 53 points in 50 games this past sea­son, shat­ter­ing his pre­vi­ous ca­reer high of 39 points.

He’s a bit un­der­sized at 5-11, 170 pounds, but he makes up for that in creativity.

“Af­ter lead­ing the league in goals and points in Switzer­land, it’s time for the next step,” said Ge­orges Muller, Suter’s agent. “At the end, it was tight de­ci­sion be­tween two or­ga­ni­za­tions. We be­lieve he fits best into the Black­hawks. They have proven many times that they are suc­cess­ful in in­te­grat­ing Euro­pean un­drafted play­ers.”

Muller also noted that Hawks as­sis­tant coach Marc Craw­ford has an ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ship with Suter that helped in­flu­ence the de­ci­sion.

Suter’s path in North Amer­ica could vary from re­sem­bling Kuba­lik’s on the high end to An­ton Wedin’s on the low end (Wedin couldn’t break out of the AHL all year and re­turned to Swe­den in May). But such is the na­ture of all Euro­pean im­ports. The Hawks will surely be op­ti­mistic about Suter, whose oneyear con­tract will make him a re­stricted free agent next off­sea­son.

Bow­man also added 21-year-old Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin prod­uct Ka­lynuk, a de­fense­man who scored 28 points in 36 games as the Badgers’ cap­tain this past sea­son.

Ka­lynuk was a sev­enth-round pick by the Fly­ers in 2017, but they let his rights ex­pire last month. He’ll al­most cer­tainly need time to de­velop in the AHL be­fore the Hawks give him a big-league look. He’s signed to a two-year con­tract.

The an­nounce­ments came as the Hawks took a day off from on­ice work­outs af­ter three con­sec­u­tive days of prac­tice to be­gin train­ing camp. They’ll prac­tice again Fri­day, their fourth of 12 be­fore de­part­ing for Ed­mon­ton on July 26.

NOTE: De­fense­man Den­nis Gil­bert an­nounced he’s miss­ing the NHL restart be­cause of a wrist in­jury that will re­quire surgery. He ap­peared in 21 reg­u­lar-sea­son games for the Hawks but wasn’t in­cluded on their camp ros­ter, which pre­vi­ously seemed strange.

VIC­TOR HILITSKI/SUN-TIMES

The Hawks had been try­ing to sign Ian Mitchell to a con­tract since last sum­mer, when he in­stead de­cided to play an­other col­lege sea­son.

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