Both Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks have made it known that there is interest in a new deal for next season but there is a fair bit of work to be done as Ben Pope of the Chicago Star-Tribune reports that there is still a notable gap in terms of what that contract will cost. While Chicago is believed to be offering between $3.5MM and $4MM, Crawford’s camp is seeking between $4.5MM and $5.5MM to re-up. Both of those ranges are below the $6MM AAV he played under for the last six years.
The 35-year-old has spent the entirety of his 13-year NHL career in the Windy City and has held a few different roles in that stretch. He has been the outright starter, the clear-cut number two, and in recent years, more of a platoon netminder. This past season, he played in 40 games, posting a 2.77 GAA and a .917 SV% while making all nine of their starts in the playoffs.
It’s clear that Crawford can still be an impactful goalie but there are two key issues at play here. Crawford wants to be a starter again and considering that the Blackhawks saw fit to bring in Robin Lehner last offseason, they may be hesitant to anoint him the clear-cut number one. The other is Chicago’s cap situation. While they have more than $7MM in cap room, they also still have winger Dominik Kubalik and center Dylan Strome to re-sign (among others). The two of them could sign for the majority of that which wouldn’t leave much of anything for a goaltender.
That’s what makes this gap so significant, even though it could be only $500K depending where both sides’ current offers are in those ranges. In an offseason where the cap has been held flat and many teams are trying to free up money, it’s going to be difficult to clear salary for value. The less that they have to free up to accommodate a new deal for Crawford (or a replacement), the better.
There’s still a little less than a week before free agency opens up so there is still time for both sides to reach an agreement but as things stand, it certainly appears as if Crawford could be testing the open market for the first time in his career.