CHICAGO -- Acquiring players like Brent Seabrook isn't easy, so the Chicago Blackhawks made what they feel was an easy decision to keep the defenseman long-term.
The defending Stanley Cup champions announced Saturday they signed Seabrook to an eight-year, contract extension reportedly worth $55 million that will keep him in Chicago through the 2023-24 NHL season.
"It's a huge relief," Seabrook said after a 3-1 preseason win against the St. Louis Blues at United Center. "I'm excited to be a Blackhawk. That's where I wanted to be the whole time. I didn't want to push it or wait or anything like that. I'm proud to be a Blackhawk. I'd like to spend my whole career here. It's up to me now to fulfill my end of the bargain and go from there."
Seabrook helped the Blackhawks win the Cup three times in the past six seasons. The 30-year-old will be an alternate captain for the first time this season, when he will make $5.8 million. He could have become an unrestricted free agent.
His new contract will have an average annual value of $6.875 million, which could make negotiating the NHL salary cap a little more difficult for the Blackhawks in the future. General manager Stan Bowman said he'll worry about that later.
"I think it's a great problem to have," Bowman said. "You can't just go pick up a Brent Seabrook. If you don't have someone like that, to be the performer that he is on the ice, as well as the leader he is off the ice ... you're looking for the exact same player."
Seabrook has 318 points (71 goals, 247 assists) in 763 NHL games with Chicago dating to his debut in 2005-06. He is third among Blackhawks defensemen in postseason games played (112) and power-play goals (five), and is fourth in points (57) and fifth in assists (38). He scored seven goals in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs after scoring eight in 82 regular-season games.
"He's obviously achieved a lot as a player, and I think the thing you notice most about Brent is he seems to raise his game in the most important games," Bowman said. "He's scored some huge goals for us. You go down the line, you look at some important things, so when those critical moments come in a game or in a series, Brent's the guy that can step up and get things done."
Seabrook has missed five regular-season games since the start of the 2010-11 season, and 10 total since 2006-07. The 14th pick in the 2003 NHL Draft won a gold medal with Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
"The hardest thing is to find talented players, that are committed to winning, and when you have them you do everything you can [to keep them] and you make it work," Bowman said. "There'll be new challenges every year, but there was never a hesitation that we would bring Brent back."
Keeping him provides the Blackhawks some continuity amid their annual roster turnover among role players to keep the payroll under the NHL salary cap, which is $71.4 million this season.
Seabrook, defenseman Duncan Keith, and forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are signed through the 2022-23 season. Goalie Corey Crawford is signed through 2019-20, and forward Marian Hossa through 2020-21.
"I think soundness in the back end is a very important need in order to have success," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You can add [Crawford] into that mix defensively, and [Toews] and [Hossa], how they check, and the upside offensively with a lot of our guys. You can talk about the guys who were here for three [championships], they're all big pieces and they're all solidified for being here long-term. Those guys ... they make it go."
The bonus for Seabrook and Keith is that their long-standing friendship will continue as teammates. Each has played only for the Blackhawks, and they can finish their careers in Chicago.
"It's pretty neat to think about that," Keith said. "At the same time, you're just so focused on working every year and starting a new year, so I think we're excited in that regard, but we're excited about knowing [Seabrook's] going to be around for a long time."
Seabrook, who said the eight-year term was an important factor, is just as pleased to stay with Keith.
"It's exciting to think of that," Seabrook said. "We've had a lot of great years together. We've got a lot of great memories together. We're great friends, see each other in the summer, live close to each other in the summer, so it's exciting to think about that. But the work's up to us now to hold up our end, and I want to continue to do my job and play hard for this team."