Recent rumours around the NHL, specifically as they relate to goaltending changes, suggest that the Toronto Maple Leafs are currently shopping Frederik Andersen. What’s not yet known is the value they’ll ultimately place on him, but it might be a worthwhile conversation for the Chicago Blackhawks to have.
Chicago was able to reach an unexpected level of success to end their 2019-20 campaign, having made their way into the playoffs after ending the season in 23rd place overall. They didn’t get out of the first round, but being there in the first place was far beyond where anyone anticipated they’d end up.
Building Their Future
What comes next for the franchise is yet to be seen. They are currently nowhere near the elite status they earned last decade. However, with their young stars and veteran leaders finally finding a level of cohesion they hadn’t yet achieved, it seems more likely that they’ll be looking to compete as opposed to rebuild.
Players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane led the team in overall production, while rising talents like Dominik Kubalik and Kirby Dach set a standard for what to expect of their developing personnel. Chicago’s also not short on potential with regards to their defense.
To maintain that newly formed momentum, they’ll need all areas of their game to be aligned. Although Corey Crawford showcased a superstar skill set in keeping the Blackhawks involved throughout their first round departure, he’s not getting any younger and his injury history is something that should concern all.
Crawford’s Costly Price Tag
Crawford is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the upcoming offseason. He’s expressed interest in wanting to come back to Chicago, even going so far as to admit that he wouldn’t be too concerned about the financials involved. (from ‘Corey Crawford wants to re-sign with Blackhawks, says salary ‘not as important’ as playing time,’ Chicago Sun Times, 08/25/2020) Whether the Blackhawks look to re-sign him or not, they’d still be best to explore all options when it comes to who will own their crease next season.
First and foremost, Crawford is coming off a contract that saw him earn $6 million average annual value (AAV). He certainly earned his value and there is no debate regarding his historical impact for the franchise. With that said, Chicago needs to focus on spending its money on potential returns that will help them reach higher levels of success moving forward. That might mean getting younger in net.
It wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Blackhawks found a way to retain Crawford. It would simply need to be in a more limited role and for the right price. Ultimately, even though he wants to stick around, it might just not work unless he’s willing to take a step back, earn much less than he has been, and let another goalie take over where he left off.
Andersen’s Discounted Services
Currently contracted to the Maple Leafs until the end of the 2020-21 season, Andersen has one year remaining on that deal. At an AAV of $5 million, he’s currently a discount compared to Crawford’s $6 million salary. Andersen is also five years younger, with more time to progress into his peak years.
Andersen had some of the worst numbers of his career through 2019-20. Yet, even though his Maple Leafs couldn’t make it out of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, he actually accumulated the best postseason stats he’s seen while in Toronto. Earning a .936 save percentage, 1.84 goals against average, and one shutout — while the team just couldn’t do their part to support his efforts — is nothing to be ashamed of.
That postseason resurgence could be a turning point in Andersen’s career. He’s had a reputation as a slow starter, whether it be at the beginning of the season or as the playoffs come into sight. However, capping off his year in such a way could mean that he’s effectively shifted that pattern in a more positive direction for what to expect of his play moving forward.
Worth the Cost
Although it doesn’t make sense for the Blackhawks to offer Crawford a raise for his services, it’s a completely different scenario when looking at a goalie that’s both younger and continuing to propel his play upward. Management would need to hope Andersen has a successful year and then prepare for what that means for his next deal.
Chicago is currently nearing the ceiling of their cap and moves will need to be made. Picking up a $5 million contract isn’t possible unless they see some current commitments going back the other way. Toronto is rich with offensive talent, but it’s no secret that their struggles seem to arise from their defensive game.
Even though the Blackhawks didn’t have the most established of defensive strategies throughout the league, when you look at their back-end lineup it’s clear that they have some pieces that could help address another roster’s shortcomings. If Chicago were to lose a promising young defenseman at the cost of getting a goalie that would lead them through their continued growth as a group, it could easily be a justifiable expenditure.
Of course, Toronto departing from their undisputed starter would ultimately mean they have that void. It would seem unlikely that they’d look to acquire Crawford in the swap, as the Maple Leafs are a team built around youth and tend to maintain that recipe.
This move would have to be part of a bigger plan that could conclude as a win for all involved. The Maple Leafs would get some additional support where they need it most, while the Blackhawks gets to turn the page on their goaltending storyline. Having another solid starter between their pipes could be a move that lifts their whole lineup closer towards the competitive team they strive to be.
Stats courtesy of: Hockey-Reference.