Blackhawks’ Petr Mrazek believes trade to Chicago ‘saved my career’

Blackhawks’ Petr Mrazek believes trade to Chicago ‘saved my career’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The NHL trade deadline on March 8 is exactly two months away, which feels like a ways away but there’s something about the calendar flipping to January that makes the hockey world start to think it’s going to be here before we know it.

The Chicago Blackhawks had several trade chips last season, five to be exact: Max Domi, Jack Johnson, Patrick Kane, Sam Lafferty and Jake McCabe. In return, they were able to stockpile draft picks, which included a first and three seconds.

The Blackhawks won’t have that same luxury this season, but one of the few names who could make its way to the rumor mill if he continues to play well is goaltender Petr Mrazek.

Before the disastrous five-game road trip for the Blackhawks, Mrazek was 9-11-0 with a 2.98 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and one shutout. His goals saved above average of 5.34 ranked 13th among all goaltenders with at least 15 appearances, per Natural Stat Trick.

It’s hard for a goaltender to put up respectable numbers on one of the worst teams in the league but Mrazek is finding a way to do just that.

“It’s January, it’s getting close to those days where a lot of people will be asking this question I guess,” Mrazek told NBC Sports Chicago. “But I’m just letting it play how it is and just focusing on myself and playing the game and being healthy and feeling good, and not worry about things I can’t control and let’s see where it will lead us.”

Mrazek was solid yet again in Sunday’s 4-3 over the Calgary Flames, and he needed to be with nine players on injured reserve for the Blackhawks, including Connor Bedard.

“He’s been great for us all year, ” Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said of Mrazek. “Amazing.”

Mrazek probably realizes the better he plays, the more his name could circulate. A lot of NHL teams could use a goaltender too, even if it’s for insurance, although it should be noted he does have a 10-team no-trade list.

Mrazek is in the final year of his contract and is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He said he’s open to re-signing with the Blackhawks.

“Yes, I am,” Mrazek said. “The things I can tell you right now is when I look back a year and a half ago, the way that [goaltending coach] Jimmy Waite changed my game and the training staff made me healthy, of course if it’s going to be any chance to do that, I’m open to it. I love the organization, it’s been a fun ride. But like I said, we’ll see how it’s going to end up.”

Mrazek wasn’t surprised when he was originally traded from Toronto to Chicago at the 2022 NHL Draft, but it was probably a mental hurdle for him to accept being shipped from a Stanley Cup contender to a rebuilding team.

As he reflects back on the last year and a half, Mrazek wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, he’s grateful that he was traded to the Blackhawks.

“I think I handled it really well,” Mrazek said. “To be honest, I’m really happy that this transaction happened. When I look back now, I reset my career a little bit and saved my career that way maybe.

“Being hurt in Toronto, it wasn’t fun playing, so just getting the opportunity — I know I was hurt last year from the start — but all those things that I worked on to stay healthy, we can see now that it worked out and this season’s been incredible the way that I could handle my body.”

Every player wants to win a Stanley Cup, and Mrazek is no different. Every player also likes playing a lot, and Mrazek is doing just that.

Both of those things will probably be on his mind as Mrazek tries to figure out where to play next season and beyond. For now, he’s just enjoying the fact that he’s healthy, playing well and handling a starting workload for the first time in a long time.

“Obviously you want to win a Stanley Cup,” Mrazek said. “I’m 31 years old, I still think I have a lot of hockey left. If you asked me two years ago the same question, I would be like: ‘Oh man, I don’t know what’s going to happen in a year or something.’ But the way I feel right now, I’m like: ‘You know what, I’ve hopefully figured it out to be healthy.’

“The goalie’s prime is always longer when you’re older, so being 31 I still feel like I have four or five or six years left in my career and I believe that I can get the Stanley Cup one day.

“On the other side, playing right now is my No. 1 priority and enjoying playing. Playing a lot is fun, so it would be nice if something is going to work out at some point.”

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