Blackhawks Cause Confusion With One-Year Offer for Crawford

It was recently reported that the Chicago Blackhawks offered Corey Crawford a one-year deal worth $3.5 million. Although coming across like a hometown discount for his services, as he’d be bringing in nearly 50% less than his previous paycheques, it is unclear what his role will be for next season.

Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Crawford has stated publicly that he wants to stay in Chicago and it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if he stuck around. The Blackhawks just need to be more transparent about their plan and how they see their franchise’s all-time leader in playoff wins fitting into it.

Questions Left Unanswered

Does that offer indicate that management feels Crawford can still be their undisputed starter, but they just aren’t willing to pay him like one? Having recently earned $6 million average annual value (AAV) and with all he’s accomplished to date, it’s hard to imagine that Crawford would be willing to commit to the same type of workload without the pay grade to match.

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Are they proclaiming that he’ll be splitting his net, so the saved funds are needed elsewhere? Chicago offering Crawford $2.5 million less than his previous per season salary could be part of their plans to optimize their goaltending budget. Since their netminders would then be sharing the crease, it would make sense that they do the same with their compensation.

Or, is this Chicago’s way of saying they want him to stick around but in more of a mentor role that has him watching from the bench? Again, as would be the case with any professional, being presented with a minimum duration of term and that hefty of a pay cut doesn’t illustrate much confidence towards how their talents fit into future plans.

Not Adding Up

If they feel like he should control their crease, this offer doesn’t amount to what he’s worth. Yet, if they want to utilize him in a lesser capacity, then perhaps it’s money that can be better spent elsewhere.

Chicago Blackhawks Corey Crawford
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt Marton)

Even the best backup goalies do not typically make $3.5 million. Chicago also already has Collin Delia, who’s patiently waiting for a chance to prove his worth and comes at a cost of $1 million per year. That’s a $2.5 million savings that might be needed to sign others who are part of a bigger plan for the Blackhawks.

Still Trying to Compete

If the Blackhawks wants to see how much Crawford has left to give, then commit to him for longer, proclaim him as the starter, and see where it takes the team. If that’s not the plan, then why spend $3.5 million to have him stick around in a role that can be fulfilled by someone else?

The Blackhawks need to be more clear on their plan for the immediate future. Although their athletes may not want to buy in to anything other than battling to compete, it’s management’s job to set out the objective and then navigate accordingly.

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Everyone knows that players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith aren’t yet ready to accept anything other than winning. It’s not that trying to progress should be out of the question, it’s just that the Blackhawks need to make that more apparent if it ultimately is their current goal.

The Youth of Today

However, if the blueprint includes plans that shift to their youth taking more control then they’re going about it all wrong. In that case, it might be time that they move on from Crawford if he’s going to still be looking to earn even that much of their depleting salary cap.

2019 NHL Prospects Tournament, Chicago Blackhawks
2019 NHL Prospects Tournament, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s possible that another team would pay Crawford to bring his talents elsewhere, which might be an option that makes sense for all. If it’s not going to be used for hopes of a return on their investment, that’s a lot of money that the Blackhawks might need to build in other areas of their lineup.

Setting the Specifics

Simply stated, if Crawford wants to stay in Chicago and the Blackhawks are looking to treat him as their starter then the offer should match that mindset. If the franchise only wants him back in a limited role, $3.5 million is just too much to be spending with Delia poised to take the next step in his career.

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Beyond that, even if the Blackhawks are looking to reach the next level of competitiveness, they need to assess if Crawford is the right fit to help them do so. Everyone knows what type of performances he’s capable of, but at 35 years old it’s fair to assume a decline in his play. So, in that instance, they should be allocating the necessary funds to secure a proven starter.

It seems that the goaltending situation in Chicago is far from figured out. That, along with other notable deals that need addressing, will certainly shape next season’s potential. For a team that has some winning ingredients mixed in with parts that are looking to establish their reputations, the Blackhawks have to detail their recipe more effectively.

Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks
Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks general manager (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky)

Crawford being re-signed certainly wouldn’t be the worst decision this franchise could make, as his playoff performances helped prove he’s still there to play. Chicago just needs to be more obvious with what they’re trying to state with bringing him back.

The Ultimate Decision

There is no doubt that Crawford has earned the right to dictate where he takes his career next. If he wants to be a starter, he should be granted that opportunity. However, he also needs to be prepared to take on a much lesser role and salary if his priority is to find a way that makes sense to stay in Chicago.

Beyond that, the Blackhawks have a responsibility to present their plans much more clearly. If not for their fans, then for the personnel who have battled to bring them their recent heights of success. Crawford needs to know where he stands and be comfortable managing whatever role the organization has him slotted into.

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Offering a one-year deal for an amount that’s millions less than he earned last season alone isn’t the way to show faith in Crawford being part of their plans to compete. Yet, $3.5 million is still a lot of money that might inevitably be better utilized elsewhere. Once it’s clearly established what the organization is hoping for out of Crawford if he stays, at least then he can decide if it sounds like a plan he can support.

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