After last summer’s debacle with the Blackhawks and Antti Niemi, the Hawks knew that one of the most important aspects to their team that they had to address with their limited cap space was goaltending. So, the Blackhawks made a splash by signing long time Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco to a 1 year contract to become the new top goalie in Chicago. As a backup, Chicago brought up Corey Crawford who served many years in the hawks system waiting for his time to break into the NHL. Crawford’s addition to the roster was almost an afterthought to many Blackhawks fans as he was just a cheap player capable of filling a roster spot without wasting precious cap space.
Once the season started however, Crawford began to impress the coaching staff. In his first start of the season on October 11th versus Buffalo, Crawford was very impressive as he stopped 32 of 35 shots to record not only his first win of the season, but also the team’s first on the season. He hasn’t looked back since…
Crawford continued to impress as the season progressed, and eventually won the starting job from Turco.
Perhaps the biggest thing that Crawford has delivered this year is stability. On a team full of young players trying to replace Stanley Cup Champions, Crawford has solidified the goaltender spot and at times single handedly won games for the young Hawks. Crawford is currently 10th in the NHL with a save% of .921 and 4th in the NHL with his 2.17 GAA…a big reason the Blackhawks are even alive for the playoffs. Take into account also that the Blackhawk’s defense is definitely not as dominant as last year and his numbers seem even more impressive.
While not being a household name or being mentioned on too many Calder Trophy watch lists, Crawford can certainly be listed next to names like Sharp and Toews for Blackhawks MVP. His consistent play has given Chicago atleast one position not constantly scrutinized.
So now as the season winds down, we must all start thinking of that dreaded time that all NHL GM’s fear…free agency.
Crawford is a Restricted Free Agent, and with his play this year will no doubt get atleast a few offers from NHL teams. Crawford certainly seems like he has what it takes to be a franchise goaltender, but will he get payed like one? Crawford is currently making $800,000 this year, and we can expect him to definitely get a raise with his great play this year. I think it is fair to say that Crawford will get atleast 1.5 mil, but more realistically will get around 2mil. With Kane/Toews contract bonuses coming off the books and an increase of the salary cap forthcoming, it seems like this should be no problem…right?
What we also must take into account is that the Blackhawks have only 10 players under contract next year, and Brent Seabrook, Troy Brouwer and others are also due new contracts and will also realistically receive a raise.
So will the Blackhawks repeat their strategy from last year and risk losing a potential franchise goaltender? Or will they commit the money into developing a potential NHL All-Star goalie? Crawford has made his case, now it’s your move Chicago…
Ahh the decisions of an NHL GM…