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Hawks, prospect Paliotta negotiating contract

Negotiations between Vermont senior defenseman Mike Paliotta and the Chicago Blackhawks are ongoing over an entry-level contract, Paliotta’s agent said on Monday.

Paliotta has been a Blackhawks prospect since being selected by them in the third round of the 2011 draft. He became eligible to sign with the Blackhawks after his senior season ended with Vermont last week.

“We’ve had conversations,” said Paliotta’s agent Jordan Neumann of Edge Sports Management. “I think everything is progressing. We’re listening to everything the Blackhawks say, and Michael and his family are giving signing with the Blackhawks a tremendous amount of thought.”

Paliotta, who is 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, had nine goals, 27 assists and was a plus-14 in 41 games this season. He’s tied for second in the nation in assists among defensemen and tied for fourth in points. He was recently selected to the Hockey East second-team.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in January he hoped to sign Paliotta after the season and was pleased with his development, especially offensively.

“His profile is not maybe as a high-scoring NHL player, but he does have that ability,” Bowman said in January. “That’s nice to see he’s tapping into it. I think he’s more along the lines of Stephen Johns. He’s a big kid. He’s got a physical side to his game. He’s not afraid to play a rugged game. But he’s worked on his skills, which is something we’ve talked about. Take advantage of it when you’re in college. He plays a lot of the power-play situations, and he’s done well with it. He’s someone we’re definitely looking to as soon as he finishes his year we want to turn pro.”

Paliotta said in late January he was focusing on his college season and hadn’t thought much about signing with the Blackhawks yet. He spoke positively about the Blackhawks and understood the defensive depth they possessed in their system.

“The Blackhawks are obviously a great organization,” Paliotta said in January. “They have a lot of depth. That’s what makes them successful. They’ve obviously developed a ton of great players. That’s exciting. ... Anywhere you go, it’s going to be challenging. You’re going to have to beat out guys. I’m excited to get my pro career going.”

Paliotta is one of two college seniors in the Blackhawks’ system. North Dakota defenseman Nick Mattson is the other, and his season is still ongoing. Mattson has four goals, 16 assists and is a plus-11 in 30 games this season.

The Blackhawks had four college senior prospects last season. They signed defenseman Stephen Johns, failed to sign forward Kevin Hayes and didn’t offer contracts to defensemen Justin Holl and Kirill Gotovets. Holl and Gotovets signed AHL contracts with the Rockford IceHogs.

Hayes, a Blackhawks' 2010 first-round pick, became a free agent on Aug. 15 and signed with the New York Rangers. He has 13 goals and 22 assists in 68 games for the Rangers this season. The Blackhawks received a compensatory second-round pick in 2015 for Hayes.

The Blackhawks have until Aug. 15 to sign Paliotta and Mattson. They would become unrestricted free agents after the deadline.