The Chicago Blackhawks still have veteran Corey Crawford starting in net next season. After that, there are still quite a few questions. One of those is whether the franchise should bring over one of their top prospects, as The Athletic’s Scott Powers (subscription required) writes that goaltender Ivan Nalimov has expressed interest in coming to the U.S. to continue his career.
The team still has Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen, and restricted free agent Anton Forsberg in the system, but Nalimov presents an interesting option. Drafted in the sixth round in 2014, the 24-year-old Nalimov has played in the KHL for five years now, putting up his best numbers in the 2017-18 season when he put up a .938 save percentage in 27 games. Nalimov expressed interest in coming over last year, however with no goaltending openings in their system, the Blackhawks opted against bringing him over, prompting a trade request which he later rescinded. This year has been less impressive for Nalimov, who posted a .917 save percentage in 18 appearances, yet the goaltender has expressed an interest in coming over yet again, according to Powers.
The Blackhawks could have an opening now as the team must first make a decision on what to do with Forsberg. The 26-year-old put up solid numbers once again with the Rockford Ice Hogs, putting up 15 wins and a 2.64 GAA, but most importantly, a .919 save percentage, which tied him for third in the AHL. Unfortunately, for Forsberg, Delia has surpassed him as the team’s No. 1 prospect and is the likely candidate to take over backup duties behind Crawford. No longer waiver exempt, the team could end up losing Forsberg for nothing if a team claims him at the start of the season. The team could place Lankinen in the starting role in Rockford and after leading Finland to the gold medal at this year’s World Championships, he might be ready for that role. That could give Nalimov a chance to be the backup for the Ice Hogs.
Of course, all that depends on what the Blackhawks intend to do this summer. The team could just as easily bring in another veteran back-up goaltender and push their prospects back a spot in the depth chart, which would once again leave Nalimov in limbo.