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Blackhawks Sign Chelios Through 1999-2000 Season

December 5, 1996 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ Chris Chelios, a three-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, signed a three-year contract extension Thursday with the Chicago Blackhawks. The new deal is worth $3.5 million per season.

The contract runs through the 1999-2000 season and makes Chelios the Blackhawks’ highest-paid player. The only NHL defenseman earning more is Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils, who will make $3.75 million this season.

``I’ve always wanted to be on the Blackhawks. I was in Montreal, and I wanted to be on the Blackhawks,″ said Chelios, who came to Chicago in a 1990 trade with Montreal

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``By no means did they have to do this for me. Certainly I’m grateful and hopefully I can repay them by helping the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. That’s really the only way I can repay them,″ Chelios said at a news conference.

Chelios, who turns 35 next month, is making $2.8 million this season. The Blackhawks had a $3 million option for next year, after which he was to become a free agent.

``Chris Chelios has earned this contract through his play on the ice but also for his dedication and loyalty to the Chicago Blackhawks,″ club president William Wirtz said.

``The first time I met Chris Chelios he came up to me and said; `Why the hell didn’t you guys draft me?‴ general manager Bob Pulford said.

``I knew Chelios wanted to be a Blackhawk. He came to us a while back and said, `I’d like to stay in Chicago for the rest of my career.′

``He is going to be here the rest of his career. We’re certainly blessed to have him. Everybody’s happy.″

The 6-foot-1-inch, 186-pound Chelios started his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens in 1983. He was traded to Chicago with a second-round draft pick for Denis Savard on June 29, 1990.

He won the Norris Trophy in 1989, 1993 and 1996 and has appeared in seven All-Star games, including every one since joining the Blackhawks.

He became the first defenseman to lead the team in scoring last season with 72 points, tying his own team record for assists with 58.