Catching up on the current state of goaltending in the Blackhawks organization is easy:
Corey Crawford started the 2017-18 season playing at a Vezina-caliber level. He had a .935 save percentage in October and followed that up with a .927 in November. With all of the glaring holes that were exposed in his absence, he finished the season with a 16-9-2 record, a 2.27 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
Here’s the problem: he finished the season on Dec. 23.
Crawford leaving the lineup was the biggest contributing factor to the demise of the Blackhawks this season. With him turning 34 on New Year’s Eve, his long-term health is a significant concern moving forward. He has two more seasons on his current contract with a $6M cap hit. Shockingly, his deal also carries a modified no-trade clause as well.
In the wake of Crawford’s injury, the goaltending situation in Chicago was a shitshow.
The only moment of brief hope came from an accountant from the burbs who, unlike the Hawks, had a playoff game to be worried about a couple weeks after his moment in the sun. Scott Foster earned his #BlackhawksLegend status with a terrific relief performance against the Jets.
Here’s what the contract status situation looks like for the Blackhawks between the pipes moving forward:
- Corey Crawford: $6M (thru 2019-20)
- Anton Forsberg: $750,000 (thru 2018-19)
- Collin Delia: $767,500 (thru 2018-19)
- JF Berube: $700,000 (thru 2018-19)
- Jeff Glass: UFA
- Scott Foster: UFA
At least the Hawks’ mediocre depth is affordable?
The Blackhawks have drafted two goaltenders since 2013: Ivan Nalimov (6th round in 2014) and Wouter Peeters (3rd round in 2016).
Nalimov, 24, had an interesting year. With the financial struggles in the KHL, Nalimov terminated his contract with Admiral in December. As Scott Powers of The Athletic noted on Dec.21, Nalimov had been the KHL’s hottest goalies early in the season.
“[Nalimov is] second in the KHL with a .942 save percentage and has faced 265 more shots than the save percentage leader. Nalimov has stopped 532-of-565 shots this season,” wrote Powers.
Powers quoted Nalimov’s agent throughout the piece linked above, and he was firm that there was no way Nalimov was going to come to North American with the Hawks having a crowded goaltender situation.
Does that change with the organization’s need at the position?
On the other hand, the youngest
Peeters, who will turn 20 on July 31, is a big kid (6-4, 205). He opted to play in the USHL with Youngstown this season and performed reasonably well in his first season on North America. He’ll likely stay with Youngstown for another year before the organization has a conversation about the professional ranks.
So what happens if:
- Crawford isn’t right again
- Nalimov doesn’t want to come to North America yet
- Peeters isn’t ready, and
- the guys under contract clearly aren’t good enough?
No, really. What about free agency?
The top of the list of unrestricted free agents isn’t very sexy. Does Kari Lehtonen or Jaro Halak or Cam Ward of Ondrej Pavelec do anything for you? I guess we could all rally around the idea of Jonathan Bernier, but his career has consistently been… inconsistent.
If we wander down the restricted free agent road, Petr Mrázek appears to have fallen out of favor in Detroit and might be a change of scenery candidate. Philipp Grubauer got a couple starts for Washington in the playoffs this spring and… nevermind.
We’ve talked about the Hawks’ forwards moving forward. Chicago looks pretty good up front.
We’ve talked about the Hawks’ blue line looking to the future. Chicago has questions, but a lot of skill coming.
The picture isn’t nearly as rosy between the pipes. If Crawford isn’t right, the Hawks will need to do something drastic this summer to fill an enormous hole.