The Chicago Blackhawks may be looking at the end of an era, although it seems like no one is just quite ready to admit that this is the way things are currently trending.
Fans in Chicago likely think of veteran goaltender Corey Crawford as a fixture in between the pipes for the Blackhawks but with the multiple time Stanley Cup Champion set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season there are some real questions being asked in regards to Crawford's future with the team. Although the Blackhawks have operated with a goaltending tandem this season, with goaltender Robin Lehner being the other half of that tandem, there is no question that Crawford has now become second fiddle behind Lehner. One need look no further than their respective numbers over the 2019 - 2020 National Hockey League regular season thus far to see that.
Crawford has appeared in 19 games for the Blackhawks this season and has recorded a 3.08 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. It is true that he has been better as of late but expect more consistency from a netminder that is going to be your starter, even if they are not getting a ton of help front the defense in front of them. Lehner on the other hand has been dynamite in spite of the team's struggles in front of him. The 28 year old has a 2.78 goals against average and a .926 save percentage this season and he has done it while appearing in 20 games for the Blackhawks, one more than Crawford.
Lehner has made it clear that he is looking for a long term deal that will play him like the star goaltender he is turning out to be, and that could effectively push Crawford to the wayside with the Blackhawks having limited cap space to re-sign the soon to be unrestricted free agent. Add to that the fact that Lehner is considerably young and if the Blackhawks are forced to make a choice there is a clear choice to be made here. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman believes however that keeping both men is a realistic possibility.
“You know, it’s a good question,” Bowman told The Athletic. “But, sure, they could both be back. Certainly. If they want to help us with the math, then yeah. We haven’t had those conversations yet, but there’s no reason that they couldn’t stay as a tandem. But until you start having those discussions about salaries, I don’t know if that’s possible, right? There are a lot of variables in that. I’m not ruling anything out at this point, but also, we haven’t chosen our path forward.”
I think it is safe to say that fans would certainly prefer that outcome, but the question remains regarding how realistic that may be. Crawford would almost certainly have to take a major discount to make it work, but perhaps he would be willing to do so. The long time Blackhawk has made it clear that he would prefer to remain in Chicago.
“I’d love to stay in Chicago,” he said. “I’ve made a life here, and I’ve had a lot of good times here. And I want to win another championship here. That would be my No. 1 choice, for sure.”
Only time will tell how this one plays out.