The Chicago Blackhawks goalies tandem of Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner have been lights out so far this season as the team in front of them has made improvements after struggling early on in the season. Stan Bowman’s bold free-agent acquisition of Lehner in the off-season is looking more and more like one of his better moves. Signing Lehner took care of a questionable situation in goal but does create questions about the future.
Chicago Blackhawks Goalies Continue to Impress
The Blackhawks 2019-20 season started off with promise early on. Unfortunately, the team struggled defensively and had to rely on the Chicago Blackhawks goalies to continuously save the day game after game. Crawford and Lehner have provided thrills in net as they battled relentless pressure from their opponents as well as numerous defensive lapses by their own team.
Lately, the Blackhawks have settled down and maintained better puck possession and offensive production. That has taken some pressure off of their beleaguered goalies but there is still room for improvement. Entering Saturday’s contest against the Nashville Predators the Blackhawks led the NHL in shots against at 37.1 shots a game. Reducing their shots against will have to continue to improve if they hope to claw their way back into playoff contention.
Chicago Blackhawks Goalies Statistics
Here is where the Chicago Blackhawks goalies stand statistically this season.
- Robin Lehner – 5-3-2 2.46 GAA .936 Save %
- Corey Crawford – 3-4-2 3.24 GAA .908 Save %
Their records may look mediocre but they are deceiving. This season Crawford has faced 315 shots-against. Of those 315 shots, 85 of them are from the “High Danger Area” per Natural Stat Trick. Crawford has stopped 73 of these High Danger Area shots for a relative save percentage of .859%. Comparatively, Lehner has faced 350 shots against with 68 from the High Danger Area. He has stopped all but 10 of these high danger shots for a relative save percentage of .853%.
A secondary statistic also provided by Natural Stat Trick is Medium-Danger-Area shots against. Lehner has faced 71 of these shots and stopped 68 for a relative save percentage of .958%. Crawford has faced 55 medium danger shots and stopped 51 of them for a relative .927% save percentage.
The tandem playing in goal for the Blackhawks has provided numerous great games for their team this season. Lehner’s signing in the off-season was questioned at first but appears to be working out great. Crawford’s health issues with concussions were a potential problem this season and the team needed a plan in case he went on injured reserve again. Signing Lehner solved that problem and they both appear to be playing well while sharing time in goal.
The 2019-20 Blackhawks season is almost at the quarter-point of the year. Their record is 8-7-4 which reflects a team finding its way while seeking consistency. As long as Crawford and Lehner stay healthy the team should gel and pull itself into playoff contention. They currently sit only 5 points out of a playoff spot. While things are currently looking up the biggest question facing the team is what happens after the 2019-20 season?
Blackhawks Goaltending Future
Both current goalies are signed through the end of the 2019-20 season. Crawford is in the last year of his six-year $36 million deal. His cap hit of $6 million goes off the books after the season. Lehner is signed for one year at $5 million and is also a free agent after the season. The only goalie signed with the team past the 2019-20 season is Collin Delia. He is signed for a modest $1 million per season through the end of the 2021-22 season. Delia’s backup in Rockford is Kevin Lankinen who is a restricted free agent after this season.
The biggest question facing the Blackhawks next season is who will be the starting goalie? It is doubtful Crawford gets offered anything from the team close to his current $6 million in salary. Lehner being a future free agent playing really well could mean a potential contract offer from the Blachkawks or possibly a trade to another team before the NHL trade deadline of February 24th. With only five picks in next summer’s NHL Draft, the team may be wise to move Lehner for one or more high draft picks. That will all depend on where the team is at in the standings entering February.
While Alfred E. Neumans in the world would say, “What – me worry?”, there is a dilemma facing the team next summer. It involves Stan Bowman’s longtime enemies the salary cap, restricted free agents (RFAs) and unrestricted free agents (UFAs).
Roster Issues Ahead
The team currently has 13 forwards, seven defencemen, and two goalies under contract for this season. The total cap hit is currently at $80.026 million per capfriendly.com. They have roughly a little over $200 thousand in cap space right now. This tight cap space is part of the reason Adam Boqvist was sent back to the Rockford Ice Hogs this week after Connor Murphy came back from being on injured reserved status. Sending Boqvist down with only six games played also gives him a chance to hone his skills in the AHL.
Looking at the Blackhawks next season shows a roster with several issues besides the Chicago Blackhawks goalies. They have three starting forwards and a defenceman that will be restricted free agents after this season: Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik, Slater Koekkoek, and the biggest one, Dylan Strome. Caggiula, Kubalik, and Koekkoek could be moved before the trade deadline or in the off-season.
Show Me The Money
This creates the question of where is the money going to come from? Removing Crawford’s $6 million from the books helps cover most of DeBrincat’s new cap hit of $6.4 million that’s starting next season. If Lehner isn’t resigned, his $5 million in salary is available to use for any contract offers to the RFA’s. That would, however, leave the team without an established veteran goalie in net. Is Delia ready to be the number one goalie next season? His $1 million dollar salary may play a big part in the Blackhawks decisions in goal next season.
Erik Gustafsson is also an unrestricted free agent after the season. He and his $1.2 million in salary are a good candidate to be moved before the trade deadline. You can add in Brandon Saad ($6M) and Connor Murphy ($3.85M) as potential players to be moved in order to create more cap space for the 2020-21 season.
Blackhawks Wrap Up
The Blackhawks will surely have their fingers crossed hoping the NHL Salary Cap goes up substantially next season. Without a large increase, the team will once again be up against a tight salary cap while trying to fill out their roster. This is a very familiar position for Stan Bowman since he took over in 2009. He did well during their three Cup-winning seasons but has struggled to produce results since 2015.
The patient Blackhawks faithful are hoping the team can make the playoffs this season. A winning team takes the mind off of the business side of hockey, but there are definite issues that need to be addressed before next season.