Chicago Blackhawks: What does the future hold for Corey Crawford?

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is an important player in the history of the franchise. However, how long can they deal with his relatively mediocre play?

The 2016-17 season was a disappointment for the Chicago Blackhawks. After earning the No.1 overall seed in the Western Conference, the Hawks lost to their division rivals, the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs.

The playoff loss was a result of many problems throughout the series. However, Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford may be one of the bigger issues we need to talk about.

Fans of the Hawks know that Crawford will never be in the same category as Carey Price or Braden Holtby. However, he has always been able to push himself to his highest ability in the postseason. Crawford has a career postseason GAA of 2.29, ahead of Carey Price in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, Crawford was nowhere near that figure this past postseason, posting a 2.84 GAA. This figure is obviously somewhat skewed due to Crawford only starting four games. However, it remains significant because of the way the series went for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Trouble ahead

Crawford is entering his eighth full season with the Blackhawks. He remains one of the NHL’s most popular goaltenders. However, we need to start looking at a growing trend in Crawford’s play.

Ever since the 2013 season, Crawford has had his GAA increase.  Back in the 2012-13 season, Crawford finished with an elite 1.94 GAA (partially due to the shorter season). However, Crawford has since pushed that number to 2.55 in the 2016-17 season. Only Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederick Anderson and New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist had worse GAA’s for playoff teams.

There is no denying Crawford’s resume and pedigree within the Blackhawks organization. A two-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time all-star, Crawford could be argued as the most decorated Blackhawks goaltender in their 91-year history.

Corey Crawford Chicago Blackhawks
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

However, we need to stop looking at what Crawford has done. The only thing that matters is the present.

If Crawford goes through another meager regular season or doesn’t carry the Hawks far in the playoffs, we could be seeing him out of Chicago.

Crawford will be 33-years-old  once this season ends, which is still fairly young for a goaltender. However, that doesn’t mean that his age is starting to catch up with his play.

Moving forward

After making some changes in-house this offseason, Blackhawk fans are hoping to see another Stanley Cup push come next spring. Another Stanley Cup run isn’t out of the question at all, the Hawks have the talent (even with an average defense) to go the distance. However, let’s just say the Blackhawks repeat from last year and exit early in the playoffs.

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Unless a buyout were to occur, the Hawks would need to trade away Crawford, as he still has two years remaining on his contract after this season. This is where things can get tricky for Stan Bowman.

It really doesn’t make sense for the Chicago Blackhawks to trade Crawford to another contender, especially in the Western Conference. Unless he completely falls apart this season, he still will be a serviceable goaltender that can help a team win the cup.

Thus it makes more sense to send Crawford to a team that holds young talent or has assets that would help the Hawks immediately.

Trading Crawford to a rebuilding side makes more sense. He will be able to bring in his experience and veteran leadership, and the Blackhawks could land some serious talent on the other end.

The ideal trade scenario

There is one team that fits exactly what Stan Bowman would be looking for if the Hawks put Crawford out on the market. The Colorado Avalanche have plenty of young stars at their disposal.

A trade that would excite Blackhawk fans everywhere would be trading Crawford for Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie.

Barrie doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as he should, he is one of the more exciting young defensemen in the NHL. His recent statistics are not going to wow you.  However, that is mainly because he is stuck in limbo with arguably the worst roster in the league.

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He was able to register 38 points on a team that only scored 165 goals last season. 31 of those 38 points were assists. This is important because it tells us that Barrie assisted on 18 percent of Colorado’s goals last season.

To put that into perspective, Duncan Keith assisted on just over 19 percent of the Blackhawks goals scored last season.

Assuming the Hawks make no roster moves over the course of the 2017-18 season, Barrie would fill a much-needed gap in an unproven Blackhawk defense. Only 26 years old, Barrie could become the next rock for the Hawks on defense once Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith hang up their skates.


There is one issue that comes with trading Crawford away. The Blackhawks then would be in need of a goaltender. They sent former backup goaltender and Chicago native Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes this offseason.

The Chicago Blackhawks acquired former seventh-round pick, Anton Forsberg, as part of the trade that brought forward Brandon Saad back to Chicago. Forsberg is more of a project than anything right now, as he is only 24. However, it is looking like he will see some spot starts this season.

Even if Forsberg were to prove himself as a strong backup, the Hawks could not risk giving him the keys to the net just yet.

The 2018 free agent class is not the most exciting one you’ll ever see when looking at goaltenders. However, the Hawks could just be looking for a rental next summer. The 2019 class owns Sergei Bobrovsky and Cam Talbot, two goaltenders that are in their primes.

The best option that the Chicago Blackhawks could look for in terms of a rental is Cam Ward. Ward will be 34 by the summer of 2018.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

You know what you’re going to get of Ward once he’s able to get out of Carolina. He’s going to post similar numbers to Crawford (2.55 GAA and a ~.92 save percentage), which is ok because that’s all the Hawks would need if he signs a one-year deal. Ward may not have the best stats around, but it’s more because he falls into a position like Tyson Barrie where he just has no help.

A simple solution

We can throw out all of these potential trade scenarios and free agents signings if the Hawks change the script from last year. Winning a fourth cup with more or less the same roster in nine seasons would place the Blackhawks in a class of their own. They don’t come in as the favorites to hoist the cup this season, but that might be a good thing for the Hawks. There certainly was an expectation around Chicago last year that the Blackhawks had a strong chance to win the cup.

Next: Is the Blackhawks' dynasty coming to an end?

As a Chicago Blackhawks fan, I sure hope they can pull out another title this season. It’s going to be a long winter for Chicago sports, and the Blackhawks might be the only beacon of hope we have.