Reporter stands by Seabrook story despite D-man's response

The Brent Seabrook Saga took an interesting twist Monday as the veteran defenseman shot down a report that he was asked by Blackhawks management to waive the no-movement clause in his eight-year, $55.8 million contract.

"I haven't been approached by anybody," Seabrook said to a throng of media after the team practiced at MB Ice Arena. "So I don't know where the reports are coming from."

The Saturday report came from Elliotte Friedman - a longtime, well-respected reporter - who works for Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada and has covered the NHL 15 years.

Reached by phone about an hour after Seabrook spoke, Friedman said: "I am very, very uncomfortable with being on the other side of Brent Seabrook on this. But I understand, at least once this season there was a conversation between team, player and agent about his future in Chicago. That's all I can really say. At some point this season, it happened."

There was no immediate response to a request to speak with GM Stan Bowman.

Seabrook is in the third year of his deal, which runs through 2023-24 and carries a full no-movement clause through 2021-22. Friedman reported that Seabrook refused to waive his NMC and is happy playing in Chicago.

So, what happens from here? Does this become a distraction for a team riding a four-game winning streak and desperately trying to make a late push for a playoff spot?

It could, but coach Jeremy Colliton said the Hawks aren't unique to dealing with such situations.

"I don't think we're special in that regard," Colliton said. "We got a job to do. Let's go out and win hockey games, and that's the focus."

Said Patrick Kane: "You know trade deadline comes, you know trades are made throughout the season. … It's just part of the business. We just control what we can control in here. Just try and focus on the next game, win the next game and keep trying to get points."

There's little debate about just how much Seabrook means to the Blackhawks behind the scenes. While he can be short, to the point and - at times - surly with the media, Seabrook is the polar opposite behind the scenes.

He's quick. Witty. Funny. Loud. Full of energy. A leader to young players. And a voice of reason when things aren't going well.

"He's a great player and he's even a better leader," said Brandon Saad. "I know it's been (a couple of) tough years, but regardless, it's always fun coming to the rink knowing he's around. He just brings that personality and that energy.

"Some days it can be quiet around here, especially when we're not having success. But he's a guy that always brings that positive attitude and energy. He's a great guy to have on your team."

Kane echoed those sentiments just minutes before Seabrook spoke.

"He's the best," Kane said. "He's absolutely hilarious. … Great guy to be around the dressing room with. Guy's also scored 100 goals in the NHL as a defenseman. I mean there's not too many defensemen that have done that in the history of the NHL."

Seabrook didn't exactly get teary-eyed when told about his teammates' glowing remarks, but he did admit "it feels nice" and then added: "I've known some of these guys for a long time. We're all good buddies and we've been through a lot together. When it comes to going to war, there's a lot of guys in this room who would be first on my list to join."

The Hawks' next two games come against teams they are trying to catch in the standings - Edmonton and Vancouver. Win them both and perhaps Bowman starts thinking twice about making any major moves before the Feb. 25 deadline.

Or perhaps it won't mean a thing as Bowman keeps shaping the roster for the long term.

So as a strange season gets stranger, it certainly looks like Seabrook will continue playing hockey for the team that drafted him almost 16 years ago.

"It's been different," Seabrook said of the 2018-19 campaign. "It's been up and down for sure. Any time you lose a coach halfway through the season, start of the season, during the year, it's tough. Having a new guy come in, there's a transition period.

"We went through a real tough stretch there. Hopefully we're starting to come out of it and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

Scouting report

Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers, 8 p.m. at Rogers Place

TV: WGN • Radio: WGN 720-AM

The skinny: Edmonton (23-24-5) has lost five straight and is 5-12-2 since Dec. 16. The Oilers looked like they would stop their skid against Montreal on Sunday, but Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl wasted a 2-on-0 breakaway in overtime when Draisaitl's pass hit McDavid's skate. … McDavid and Draisaitl lead Edmonton with 31 and 29 goals, respectively. McDavid and the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane are tied for second in the NHL with 76 points. Kane is riding an 11-game point streak in which he has 9 goals and 17 assists. … Opponents have succeeded on 11 of 30 power-play attempts (36.7 percent) over the last eight games. The Hawks, meanwhile, are a league-best 21-for-55 (38.2 percent) on the power play over the last 18 games. … The Hawks lost both of their games to the Oilers this season - 4-0 on Nov. 1 and 2-1 in overtime on Oct. 28.

Next: Vancouver Canucks, 7:30 p.m. Thursday at United Center

- John Dietz

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