According to multiple online reports, it appears that Corey Crawford's career with the Chicago Blackhawks is coming to an end.
Blackhawks insider Mark Lazerus of The Athletic reports that GM Stan Bowman is not expecting Crawford to sign a deal with the team before free agency officially opens next week. When asked if he's worried that Crawford will leave the team as a free agent Bowman replied, "We’re realistic that that’s a possibility but that’s not what we’re focused on."
According to NHL insider Pierre LeBrun, the Blackhawks informed Crawford that they'll only bring him back on a "bargain deal", but that didn't appeal to Crawford.
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If this is indeed the end of Crawford's time in Chicago, it's indeed the end of an era. Crawford will go down in history as one of the greatest goaltenders in franchise history. He ranks third all-time in games played and wins by a Blackhawks goaltender behind Hall of Famers Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito. He's been in the Blackhawks organization since being drafted by the team in the 2nd round (52nd overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He's been more or less the team's uncontested starting goaltender since 2010-11 and it's only due to injuries that he's been limited in recent years.
He's a two time Stanley Cup champion (2013 and 2015) and he's also a two time Jennings Trophy winner (2013 and 2015). To be perfectly honest, he's one of the most underrated players in Blackhawks history. Sure, the Blackhawks managed to win a Stanley Cup in 2010 on the backs of Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi, but I'm not sure they get back to the dance in 2013 and 2015 if it's not for Crawford. He put up a remarkable .932 save percentage during the 2013 Stanley Cup run and a .924 save percentage during the 2015 Stanley Cup run. The fact of the matter is the Blackhawks wouldn't be near as successful as they were without Crawford between the pipes. He'll never be as regarded as Esposito, Hall or even Ed Belfour in Blackhawks lore, but he delivered two Stanley Cup championships to this team and this city and for that he'll go down in history as one of the all-time greats.
The only question now is... what's next?