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Even after Cup win, Crawford’s future in Chicago is cloudy

Aug 16, 2013, 2:44 PM EDT

Corey Crawford Getty Images

Corey Crawford finished the 2013 playoffs with a record of 16-7-2, a goals-against average of 1.84, and a save percentage of .932.

Oh, and 1.0 Stanley Cups hoisted over his head.

To say the 28-year-old proved his detractors wrong this past spring would be an understatement. Crawford only had one really poor outing, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final when the Boston Bruins put five behind him. Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they got six behind Tuukka Rask that night.

After the Cup was won, the ‘Hawks were all but lining up to lavish praise on their goalie.

“He obviously took a lot of heat over the last couple of years. And all he’s done is just played unreal from start to finish this year,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I can’t say enough about him. The pressure on him, to do what he did was unbelievable.”

Of course, Antti Niemi was pretty good for the Blackhawks in 2010, and he ended up signing with the San Jose Sharks that summer. A salary cap can lead to tough choices for teams that spend to the max.

Which brings us back to Crawford, who has one year remaining on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Currently, his cap hit is around $2.7 million; barring injury or total meltdown next season, it will be going up with his new deal. The questions are: how much will it be going up? And, will the Blackhawks be the ones responsible for it?

Per CapGeek, Chicago already has over $56 million allocated to just 12 players in 2014-15. On top of that, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are pending UFAs in 2015-16. And with all due respect to Crawford, those two take priority.

On the other hand, there isn’t a sure-fire successor to Crawford in the system. The ‘Hawks recently signed veteran Nikolai Khabibulin to a one-year deal to replace backup Ray Emery, who went to Philadelphia in free agency.

Could Finnish free-agent signing Antti Raanta be the goalie of the future?

Raanta, 24, was named SM-liiga playoff MVP this season, capturing the Jari Kurri Trophy (Finland’s equivalent to the Conn Smythe) and while posting a 1.33 GAA and .955 save percentage for Assat, backstopping the club to the league championship.

“He had a great season,” said general manager Stan Bowman. “Hats off to him. I think we were very fortunate to get him. Our staff worked hard and had discussions with him and his agent. We tried to explain where we see him. We think he has a bright future, and now it’s just a matter of getting him acclimated to the North American style. We think he’ll do very well.”

It figures that Raanta is headed for the AHL to start the season, and he’s comfortable with that.

It also figures that how he performs with Rockford could have an impact on Crawford’s future with the club.

More Blackhawks day on PHT:

Pirri leads list of ‘Hawks prospects to watch

Second-line center spot up for grabs in Chicago

  1. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 16, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    It’s not a huge thing, and staying with the Hawks is his best chance at getting the most playoff bonus. He’s also in a big media market, so I hope the Hawks start courting local advertizers on his behalf.

    And subjectively, his best chance for success comes with the Hawks. Hawks were 4th best in SOG against, tied for fewest penalty minutes, so he’s facing less 4 on 5 pressure.

  2. blackhawks2010 - Aug 16, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Crawford’s best playing is in front of him, he turned the corner last year and now knows how to get it done.

    Having the best blueline in the NHL in front of him doesn’t hurt either.

    • clefty1 - Aug 16, 2013 at 8:27 PM

      The reason why Crawford won was because of the team in front of him. Put him on the WIld or Wings and neither of those teams make the playoffs. Can you say OVERATED!

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 16, 2013 at 10:10 PM

        While his GAA would surely go up, his save% would not be as imnpacted. Going .932 against playoff-level teams is pretty darn good.

        The clincher for me is the comments we continue to hear from his teammates, who I figure have a better sense than any of us. Kane pub,ically said Cory should have gotten the Conn Smyth.

        Somehow you know better?

  3. rendy09o - Aug 17, 2013 at 4:02 AM

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  4. toews19cup - Aug 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    Corey Crawford is an important part of the Chicago Blackhawks. This team has a chance to stand alone in Chicago sports history. 2 Stanley Cups already and the future looks bright. They haven’t suffered the roster losses like they did after winning it all in 2010. They have all of their blue liners, (Keith, Seabrook, Kjalmarsson, Oduya, etc) the man between the pipes, Crawford, and the core (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, and now Bickell) New guys will add to the mix this year (Bollig, Pirri, Morin, and Hayes) so here come the Hawks! Also consider Detroit and Columbus have moved to the eastern side of the NHL and the Blackhawks should have another stellar season….

  5. greenmtnboy31 - Aug 19, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    The reason the Hawks won is because of the hot goalie they had behind them, combined with the solid team up front. In this era, no team wins the Cup without an elite goalie to backstop them the way Crawford did. You can have one of the best teams in the league (Exhibit A – Pittsburgh), but if you have a mediocre goalie, you’re not going anywhere, see Exhibit A.

    On the other hand, a mediocre or even 8th seeded team be carried by a hot goalie all the way to hoisting the Cup, as in Exhibit B – the 8th seeded LA Kings.

    Suggesting Crawford is overrated after the performance he put on this spring is hogwash.

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