The Chicago Blackhawks goaltending was a huge bright spot during the pre-COVID 2019-20 NHL season. Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner were one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL. They were also the most besieged goalies in the league facing an onslaught of high-quality shots every game. Statistically, they were marvels considering the constant pressure in their zone. Crawford had a goals-against-average of 2.97 with a .917 save percentage. During Lehner’s time with the Blackhawks, he had a goals-against-average of 3.01 and .918 save percentage. Blackhawks goaltending was not the reason the team faced its third year in a row out of the playoffs.
Chicago Blackhawks Goaltending Options
As the NHL emerged from its pause, they announced there would be playoffs this summer. The non-playoffs bound Blackhawks were awarded a spot and everything began to smell like roses again for the storied franchise. Stan Bowman’s reign as general manager would not include a third consecutive year out of the playoffs. Bowman’s squad that had been in a steady decline since 2015 was given a shot at the Stanley Cup despite his failures over the last several seasons.
The Blackhawks began to prepare for the upcoming playoffs and players started to report to camp. Then came this week’s announcement that fan-favorite “Crow” was deemed “unfit to play” by the team. This sent shock waves throughout the fan base who had been clamoring for the playoffs to begin. We are going to cover the Blackhawks goaltending as it stands now as well as take a look at the upcoming 2020-21 season.
Crawford being unfit to play brings about many questions about the status of the two-time Stanley Cup Champion. Due to HIPAA privacy and NHL rules, the team is not allowed to discuss the nature of him being deemed unfit. There are several potential issues being thrown around on social media, but no one knows the facts except him and the team. We will avoid speculating on what caused Crawford to be deemed unfit to play and focus on what this does to the Blackhawks goaltending going forward.
Chicago Blackhawks Goaltending Now
The Blackhawks are left with several goaltenders who will be contending for the starter’s role in the playoffs. None of them unfortunately have the talent or pedigree of Crawford but they will certainly battle hard for the team.
Malcolm Subban came to the Blackhawks in the trade deadline deal that sent goalie Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights. Subban’s role was to backup Crawford who was once again the main man in goal for the team. He has the most experience of the goalies in camp. His career record is 30-23-7 with a goals-against-average of 2.97 and .899 save percentage. The 2019-20 season Subban was 9-7-3 with a goals-against-average of 3.17 and .890 save percentage. He has never been asked to carry a team as their number one goalie so the pressure will be on him to play well in camp and win the starter’s job.
Collin Delia sprang into the Blackhawks goaltending discussion while playing in the 2018-19 NHL season. He came up from the Rockford Ice Hogs when Corey Crawford was injured and backed up Cam Ward. Delia has played a total of 18 NHL games, 16 of which he started. His career NHL record is 7-5-3 with a 3.65 goal against average and .906 save percentage. His record with Rockford this season was 16-13-1 with a goals-against-average of 2.66 and .912 save percentage. Delia is a battler and will be a definite contender to get the number one job in net for his team.
Blackhawks Dark Horses In Net
Kevin Lankinen came into the goalie scene for the Blackhawks this past season. He originally signed with the Blackhawks as an undrafted free agent in May 2018 after playing in Finland 2013-18. After signing, Lankinen played for the Indy Fuel and Rockford Ice Hogs in 2018-19 going 11-14-1. In the summer of 2019, he led the Finnish team to the World Championships Gold Medal. He played phenomenal in net for them and was the difference in the tournament. He played for the Ice Hogs last season and had a record of 8-10-2 with a goals-against-average of 3.03 and .909 save percentage.
Lankinen has size and skill in goal and will definitely contend for playing time in net. While he may not get the chance to play in the opening round, he may get tapped to play if Subban or Delia falter after the first series. Lankinen will also be in our discussion later about the Blackhawks goaltending next season.
Drafted by the Blackhawks in the seventh round way back in 2012 Matt Tomkins has taken a long journey to the NHL. He played four years at Ohio State University from 2013-2017. He split time with the Ice Hogs and the Indy Fuel of the ECHL from 2017-19. His record in Rockford this season was 5-7-1 with a goals-against-average of 3.12 and a save percentage of .896. Tomkins signed to a two-year contract by the Blackhawks in January of 2020. His contract expires after the 2020-21 season so he will also be in the discussion for Blackhawks goaltending next season. Tomkins is the longest of longshots to play in the upcoming playoffs so he will certainly want to impress the team while he is in camp.
Blackhawks Options Going Forward
There are many concerns for the Blackhawks going into the 2020-21 NHL season. They currently have three goalies signed for next season. They are Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen, and Matt Tomkins. Malcolm Subban is a restricted free agent after this season and Corey Crawford is an unrestricted free agent.
Stan Bowman will have his work cut out for him as he prepares the team for next season. Per Capfriendly.com the Blackhawks have roughly $7.353 million in cap space. Before anyone starts celebrating this cap space by demanding they resign Lehner, Mr. Bowman will have some housekeeping to take care of with the roster.
There are currently three forwards that are restricted free agents; Drake Caggiula, Calder finalist left-wing Dominik Kubalik, and centre Dylan Strome. Strome’s signing will definitely eat up a large portion of the available cap space. Extending offers to Gaggiula and Kubalik will also eat away at that 7+ million in projected cap space. Subban playing well may also get a contract offered. The biggest question is whether he could be the much-needed number one goalie in net.
Free Agent Goalies
Whatever happens with the restricted free agents above will go a long way towards determining if the Blackhawks can secure a starting goaltender via free agency. Here is a list of free-agent goalies who had 15 or more wins this season as well as their current salary. Several of them are not signable without some huge movements of salary by trade. Others are mid-priced free agents that may be in the Blackhawks price range after resigning Strome who is a must sign.
- Braden Holtby – 25 wins – $6.1 million
- Jacob Markstrom – 23 wins – $3.66 million
- Robin Lehner – 19 wins – $5 million
- Mike Smith – 19 wins – $2 million
- Corey Crawford – 16 wins – $6 million
- Thomas Greiss – 16 wins – $3.33 million
- Anton Khudobin – 16 wins – $2.5 million
- Brian Elliott – 16 wins – $2 million
Bowman may also look to trade for a starting goalie but that will certainly not be easy. Any goalie that has a high upside will demand valuable assets in return. Who could the Blackhawks move in order to reduce cap space? Bradon Saad and his $6 million in annual cap hit comes to mind. He is only 27 and scored 21 goals with 33 points in 58 games this season making him marketable. The only downside to Saad is that he has only one year left on his contract and will have a modified no-movement clause next season. He also becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2020-21 season as well.
Blackhawks Goaltending Questions Remain
Things are certainly going to be interesting for Bowman going forward. Delia, Lankinen, and Tomkins are all he has for now unless Stanley can work some magic with the roster. It is definitely every Blackhawks fan’s hope that one of these three can prove they can start and flourish in goal. They will of course have to defend their net behind a team that has issues preventing quality shots. The Herculean efforts by Lehner and Crawford this season were not enough to keep the team in the playoff hunt. Can one of these three young goalies take the reigns and lead the team? Only time will tell as we head into the playoffs and beyond.