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Versteeg signs three-year deal with Blackhawks

Wednesday, 07.08.2009 / 10:45 AM / 2009 NHL Offseason News

Kris Versteeg was among the unlikeliest Calder Trophy finalists in NHL history. Now he's going to get paid like a star in the making.

A restricted free agent, Versteeg on Wednesday signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. According to TSN, the deal will pay the 23-year-old right wing more than $9 million.

"Kris' tremendous rookie season was a big reason the team was able to go as far as it did," Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon said in a statement released by the team. "He is part of a core of young players that is going to make this franchise successful for a long time."

Versteeg led all NHL rookies in 2008-09 with 31 assists, was second with 53 points and fourth with 22 goals and a plus-15 rating. His 4 shorthanded goals tied a team rookie record.

He followed that with 12 points in 17 playoff games, tops among all first-year players and tied for fourth among all Blackhawks players.

Originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in the fifth round of the 2004 Entry Draft, he was traded to the Blackhawks in February 2007 for Brandon Bochenski. He had 4 points in 13 NHL games during the 2007-08 season, spending most of his time in the American Hockey League.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder was expected to be back in the minors this season, but made the team in training camp and then had 7 goals and 20 points in his first 20 games.

Signing Versteeg means the Blackhawks have signed all of their restricted free agents, and outside of the losses of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and forward Martin Havlat, kept intact most of the group that went to the Western Conference Finals in the spring.

The signing also, however, puts Chicago perilously close to the $56.8 million salary cap, meaning a trade could be needed to free up money for a backup goalie as well as any other in-season transactions.

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