Crawford Was The Only Real Option

Stan Bowman was convinced he would get Corey Crawford to agree to a contract extension and the Hawks’ GM was correct. Bowman also indicated awhile ago he wasn’t in a hurry to get an extension for Crawford completed. Bowman’s relaxed attitude towards negotiations may have been more posturing than anything else.

Hockey logic indicated there wasn’t another good option for Bowman.

In comparison to other restricted free agent (RFA) goal keepers this summer Crawford was at the head of the class. There are two top tick potential unrestricted free agents goalies that might have been available. But both Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun are well beyond the Hawks’ budget. Down deep Bowman knew even if only one of those two quickly resigned with their present team the price for goal tenders this summer could go up.

I’m sure Bowman understands about supply and demand and the Hawks could have been caught in another ticklish arbitration situation or even worse. If negotiations crept along Crawford might have attracted an offer sheet from a desperate team which lost out on either Bryzgalov or Vokoun.

Crawford could have been considered a viable less expensive option for a desperate Cup contender. All that is moot now as Bowman realized his only real option was his best option.

My guess is the Hawks paid up a bit and got Crawford to agree to a longer term. But a three year, $8 million contract isn’t hard for the Hawks to swallow. That is as long as Crawford plays at the level he did this past season.

Crawford deserves to be well paid. He toiled in the AHL for five years and had to be patient. Crawford concentrated on honing his skills and wasn’t deterred.

For the last few years, Crawford was stuck behind the overpaid Nikolai Khabibulin and the bloated contract of Cristobal Huet. When it appeared Crawford would finally get his chance, the recallable contract of Antti Niemi was a big reason he spent another season in Rockford.

When given the chance on the big stage Crawford shined.

Crawford had a great rookie season and was the reason why the Blackhawks were eligible to play in the post season. He was better than I anticipated. Crawford’s playoff performance was at a high level and that experience should serve him well.

Recently the Hawk front office hasn’t had the best track record when it comes to selection starting goal keepers. During the previous two seasons Huet and Marty Turco were bumped off their perch as the number one goalie. Hopefully Bowman and company have made the correct choice this time.

Crawford could become a star, as always time will tell. But for now Crawford deserves his contract and the benefit of doubt.

Al’s Shots

After watching the implosion of the San Jose Sharks in Vancouver the other night an interesting thought came to mind.

It has taken a couple of years but the Canucks have taken a page from the Blackhawks and have learned to turn the other cheek. It has also taken a couple of years but now the Sharks appear to have become the Canucks of old.

Bowman indicated the Hawks are negotiating to get goal keeper Alexander Salak to come over to North America.

Salak might want to be well paid to make the move considering his role has been defined as a backup. In a perfect world Salak comes over and stays in Rockford for a season. He could use the seasoning and the Hawks won’t have to deal with the cap hit.

The Hawks do need a backup and my gut says it won’t be Marty Turco. My take is the Hawks can’t afford to pay $1 million or more on a backup keeper. Cap space is not as tight as last summer but every penny still counts.

Maybe the 31 year old Joey MacDonald would appreciate a raise and a change of scenery. MacDonald isn’t the biggest goalie around but at 6’0″ and about 200lbs he could be an adequate backup for Crawford.

MacDonald played in 11 games for the Red Wings and had a 2.21 GAA while recording a respectable .924 save percentage.

MacDonald earned $550,000 last season and is an upcoming UFA.

I have not heard any rumors but MacDonald should be available for less than $1 million per season. By this time MacDonald would be accustomed to his role and might be content on being a backup in Chicago.

Lastly, I feel sorry for the fans of the Atlanta Thrashers as the move to Winnipeg appears likely.

Of all the big cities in the US, Atlanta might be at the bottom of the heap when it comes to supporting professional sports.

The people of Winnipeg deserve a NHL franchise but it is too bad they will get a team because of financial struggles in Atlanta.

In my view the quickest way for the Thrashers to become a playoff participant was to draft correctly. Then they must be able to retain good young players and that takes money. The odds for success will be better in a financially sound environment.

It’s a difficult economy in the US. Unfortunately, there probably will be other franchises looking to relocate in the near future.

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  1. Craig N says:

    Al excellent analysis you are exactly right, the backup goalie for the hawks cannot make 1 mil. Money is too tight. McDonald would fit the bill. He probably would relish not having to go up and down from the NHL to the ahl. As we saw this past season points are precious in October and November and I’m not sure about all this salak talk.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Thanks,

      I think by this time fans should realize talk is cheap…

      Paying Salak a lot of money to get accustomed to the NHL scene might not be realistic…But to get him to stay in Rockford for a year would make sense.

  2. Dave Morris says:

    Al, as always, your perspective is appreciated.

    It would interesting to know what Icehogs TV commentator Mike Peck thinks of Salak, if he indeed saw him play in the AHL…I watched Salak on TV during his two games with the Panthers, and he appeared technically sound and poised FWIW. People may want to hold off on judging him until they see him, assuming he actually comes to camp. His salary for 2010-11 was 875k, not unreasonable.

    McDonald is OK, what they used to call a ‘journeyman’ goaltender. He plays a little ‘small’ IMHO, so he’s not necessarily better than Turco; and Marty might even take a pay cut.

    There may other backups out there, who knows, as the FA crop sprouts July 1. If Ty Conklin hadn’t made that dumb remark about the “NHL wants the Hawks to get into the playoffs”, he might have been an interesting option, though he wants over a mil.

    Anyway, the important thing is that Crawford seems to be a solid number one.

    Now the team needs to get some snarl for next year.

    Re: Nux-Sharx, the two former Habs who were once Top 6 guys, Lapierre and Higgins, have made a difference in VAN. Maybe these two loose cannons finally got the message, and decided it’s better to listen to Vigneault than cowboy it up.

    Finally, Quebec is probably the next destination for the Florida Panthers. We’ve discussed the ATL situation on several occasions, and hopefully this deal is done.

  3. Al Cimaglia says:

    Lapierre and Higgins………Two great veteran pickups.

    It would be nice to add someone like that to the mix this summer.

    Rememember a few years ago I was on the Dominic Moore bandwagon…He has been good too.

    MacDonald………He plays a little ‘small’ IMHO

    I agree and is why I looked up his height…I thought maybe he was more like 5’10″ but…

    There could be other options for $750,000 or so.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Now with that salary Salak can learn in both places Chgo and Rockford.

      I am surprise he signed so quickly but after exploring his options…

      If Salak wants to be a NHL goalie he needs to play in North America….He has lessons to learn.

      Good signing for Bowman and the Hawks could look to still sign a journey man keeper.

      • Living the Cup says:

        Maybe they’ll sign a veteran keeper but Salak got a 1 way contract.

        Unless he blows up at camp I think they’re thinking he’s going to be the back up.

      • QStache says:

        ESPN was reporting it was a one-way deal. Has it now been announced it is a two-way deal?

    • Living the Cup says:

      Higgins is making 1.6 and Lapierre 900K (I think) – that’s great value.

      Higgins is a 2nd line winger and Lappy the 3rd line centre.

      You’re right the Hawks need a little more of these signings.

      A Joel Ward type although he may cost too much given his playoff.

      • QStache says:

        Just a killer that we have as much wrapped up in Bolland as we do and that he has never developed into a legit second line center. I’d like his deal so much more at or around $2MM.

        • Al Cimaglia says:

          I think if you take a step back…Bolland is worth more to the Hawks than most $2 million players.

          The Hawks have to define Bollands role…….

  4. djd says:

    Well, Al,
    Salak on board for 600k for two years.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/nhl/news/story?id=6570139

    • shruew says:

      Sounds like a good deal. By my quick glance he shouldnt need to clear waivers if his first NHL contract was in 09-10 and only 2 NHL games. (the timing scales a different for goalies)

      I suspect he starts in Rockford and moves up as needed to the NHL. I’m guessing that was the plan and why Salak probably pushed for the 1 way deal.

      • Al Cimaglia says:

        That’s what I was thinking without double checking…Also a reason the Hawks may go out and sign journeyman vet.

        This may be more of a learning yr. in Rockford although injuries can change everything.

        • shruew says:

          By my quick read he signed his first NHL contact at 22 so he has 4 years or 60 NHL games. So he should be waiver free through the ’12-’13 season or 58 more games.

          • Al Cimaglia says:

            Well they signed Salak for about $200k less than I would have guessed…

            It’s a realistic deal for him and gives the Hawks a chance to develop a kid with potential.

        • HawksinDC says:

          Toivonen,a UFA, is not signed so it would be Richards and Salak in Rockford at first glance for ’11 -12.

          Also, Richards is a RFA, so it is interesting they moved first on Salak, and to my knowledge, have not done anything with Richards.

          • shruew says:

            Who knows? It’s not like Alec is going to have tons of people knowing on his door.. They have time. Salak is also much further along in development so if you had to pick between the two….the choice is obvious.

          • Al Cimaglia says:

            If the Hawks are looking at upside the edge should go to Richards….unless the Organization doesn’t want to invest more to him in his developement.

            Toivonen appears to me as more a veteran AHL player or headed overseas.

  5. Craig N says:

    Richards needs to be a number 1 goalie in the a before the hawks even think of carrying him

  6. [...] ? Why Corey Crawford was the only real choice for Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. [Hockey Independent] [...]