THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHICAGO — Veteran defenceman Brent Seabrook agreed to a five-year, US$29 million contract extension with the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
The 25-year-old Seabrook has played 452 regular-season games over parts of six seasons with the Blackhawks, who selected him with the 14th pick in the 2003 draft.
General manager Stan Bowman said the two sides had been working on the extension since October and had reached a point where it was time to complete it or set aside.
"Both my agent stressed to Stan and Stan stressed to my agent was that we’ve got more important things right now (NHL’s trading deadline) than signing Brent Seabrook," Seabrook said. "I really wanted to get that done, and if it didn’t, like Stan said, wait ’til the end of the season.
"I’m excited it got done, and excited about the (playoff) push here."
Defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago defeated Phoenix 4-3 in a shootout on Sunday for its fourth straight win.
The Blackhawks, who have dealt with inconsistency this season, are trying to manoeuvre into playoff position in the Western Conference.
Seabrook is a key to the Blackhawks success as their No. 2 defenceman behind Duncan Keith, last year’s Norris Trophy winner.
"He’s been kind of a fixture on our defence. He came up as a 20-year-old kid," Bowman said. "I’m not sure he’s reached his potential yet. His best years, he’s coming right into them right now and that factored into it. He’s still only 25 years old. Looking at defencemen in particular, they hit their stride between 25 and 30 and that’s what this contract covers."
Seabrook made his debut with Chicago in 2005. He has 34 career goals and 143 assists and has led the Blackhawks in hits the last four seasons. Seabrook also played for the gold medal-winning Canadian Olympic team in Vancouver last year.
Pairing with Keith, Seabrook helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup last season and had four goals and seven assists in 22 post-season games.
"Chicago’s been my home the last six years. I love it here," Seabrook said. "There have been ups and downs, but I think there will be a lot more ups in the future."
In the off-season, the Blackhawks lost 10 players through a salary-cap purge from their championship team but have kept their core intact. In December 2009, they gave multi-year contracts to stars Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Keith.