With all due respect to Jay-Z, the Blackhawks have 99 problems and, considering the streak they’re on, the b**** might be one of them.
But with all of the issues plaguing the team right now, should they consider putting one of their goalies on the market? Now might be the right time to move Ray Emery.
This fact has become clear: the Blackhawks do not have a number one goalie on their roster.
Emery certainly shut up those that questioned him during the preseason with a stretch of strong play in December, but he’s been just as mediocre as Corey Crawford.
It’s worth noting that in early November, NHL.com’s Brian Hedger tweeted that a source told him the Hawks were keeping Emery around as trade bait.
I was in Rockford last night to see Alexander Salak’s first start after missing significant action with a lower-body injury. The IceHogs won the game 2-1, and Salak looked great. In fact, he looked a lot like the guy that many (including me) thought had won the back-up job behind Crawford during training camp.
What Salak brings to the table in intriguing from a number of perspectives.
First, like Emery but unlike Crawford, Salak is a feisty netminder. Last night there were a couple if instances where Salak showed a lot of emotion, including barking at a ref after the Wolves scored a questionable goal (whistle should have blown well before the score). After the eruption, which included throwing the puck across the rink, Salak didn’t allow another goal.
A goaltender that responds well to a negative moment in a game? What a novel concept!
In fact, at one point Salak got into the mix while the skaters were exchanging words behind the net. Salak grabbed one of the Wolves by the collar and jerked him away from the pack, and appeared to offer a fight if the Chicago player wanted to dance. His request was denied, but that emotion was noticeable.
Second, unlike Emery, he’s under contract after this season. At this point in the season, we should all be comfortable with saying Emery and Crawford are known commodities, and neither is getting the job done.
Could it be worse? Sure.
But could it get better? Absolutely.
And with Salak being around next season, why not give him a shot?
One other intriguing reality is that there are a number of teams in the market for a goalie right now, but many of them don’t want to add a long-term commitment if possible because of the potential to make a run at a free agent like Josh Harding, Johan Hedberg and even restricted Cory Schneider this summer. Emery’s one-year deal is ideal.
For a team desperate for an improvement, like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Emery might be worth taking on for the rest of the season. And if the Lightning had interest in moving some salary off the books, perhaps in the form of defenseman Pavel Kubina ($3.85M cap hit), a swap for an improvement between the pipes might provide two pieces in a potential deal.
Salak has only started one game after injury, and wasn’t spectacular early in the season, so the organization likely wants to see a couple more quality starts from him before considering this proposed course of action. But as the deadline gets closer and teams look more desperate for a goalie, Emery might become a commodity with enough value that the Hawks would be foolish not to explore moving him.