Training camp is just around the corner for the Chicago Blackhawks and the rest of the league. Players around the world are headed back to their respective cities in preparation for a new season. The Blackhawks will look a lot different this year as they continue to confront their rebuild head on. While we wait for the season to start, we’ve been learning more about the Blackhawks who were acquired during this tumultuous offseason.
Related – Meet the New Blackhawks: Jack Johnson
Unless the Blackhawks make an unexpected addition in the coming days, this will likely be the last installment of our summer series. So without further ado, today we meet new Blackhawks’ goaltender Alex Stalock.
Blackhawks Sign Backup Goaltender
Blackhawks’ management determined NOT to re-sign their free agent goaltenders Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia. Both went on to ink one-year prove-it deals with the Nashville Predators and the Vancouver Canucks, respectively. In turn, Chicago welcomed veteran netminder Petr Mrazek on the first night of the 2022 NHL Draft. This was part of a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs that also included the No. 25 overall pick (which ended up being defensive prospect Sam Rinzel). The team then signed Stalock as the projected backup on the first day of free agency.
Stalock is signed to a one-year deal, with a cap hit of $750,000 with the Blackhawks. At 35 years of age, he’s five years older than Mrazek, although the two have both suited up for 10 years in the league. But Mrazek has definitely put in more game time in those 10 seasons. He’s accumulated five seasons with more than 38 games played, which is Stalock’s highest tenure (in the 2019-20 season with the Minnesota Wild). So what does Stalock’s background entail?
The St. Paul, Minnesota native was drafted in the fourth round (112th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks. Stalock went on to play college hockey for three years at the University of Minnesota Duluth, before joining the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, the Worcester Sharks.
He made his NHL debut with the Sharks on Feb. 1, 2011, in relief of former Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup champion netminder, Antti Niemi. But that was Stalock’s only NHL appearance until the 2012-13 season due to a nerve injury and extensive rehabilitation. In the 2013-14 season, he played 24 games as the backup goaltender for the Sharks. He remained in that capacity until the 2015-16 season, when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They promptly put him on waivers and he was assigned to the AHL Toronto Marlies.
For the 2016-17 season, Stalock signed on with the Minnesota Wild, where he remained for four seasons.
Alas, he was placed on waivers yet again in the 2020-21 season as he recovered from another injury, and was claimed by the Edmonton Oilers. But he never played a game with the Oilers. He contracted Covid in Nov. 2020, which led to a heart condition called myocarditis. He ended up missing the entire season.
Related – Meet the New Blackhawks: Petr Mrazek
Things came full circle when Stalock was traded back to his original club, the Sharks, in March of 2022. Like his very first season, he only suited up for one NHL game with them in the 2021-22 season.
It’s no wonder the 5-foot-11 netminder is being designated into a backup role. That’s what he’s done most of his career.
Stalock’s Time With the Wild
While Stalock started his career with the Sharks, he played the most games (89 of a career 152 contests) with the Wild. As a backup to Devan Dubnyk, Stalock posted a combined .916 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average in that span. He also suited up for four playoff games in the 2019-20 qualifying round versus the Vancouver Canucks. Respectable feats for a backup.
I reached out to Mariah Stark (Holland), my colleague with The Hockey Writers who covers the Wild, to get her perspective on Stalock.
While Stalock didn’t get a lot of playing time over the four seasons he spent in Minnesota, there is one word to describe him: character. He may not have been the most stellar goalie, but he was reliable, and the more games he played the better he performed.
Listening to everyone talk about him on podcasts and press conferences, he’s very well liked and has some of the best character in the league. So he can provide great leadership and be very well respected, regardless of his stats.
It’s true that Stalock and new defenseman Jack Johnson will be the eldest Blackhawks at 35 years old. But with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Tyler Johnson on the team, I’m not sure the Blackhawks need any more leadership. Although it certainly won’t hurt. I do like what Mariah says about Stalock being reliable. A dependable presence in between the pipes could go a long way.
What Stalock Brings to the Blackhawks
It appears Stalock has the potential to hold down the fort on the back end as a mature and steady backup presence. But we also have to remember he’s only suited up for one NHL game in the last two seasons.
Injuries have definitely been a factor for this goaltender his entire career. But adversity breeds character and resilience. Can Chicago’s new backup netminder stay healthy and have another shot to prove himself? Mariah gives some further insight:
For how young the Blackhawks are, he’ll be a great locker room presence that they’ll be able to get advice and experience from. Besides, it’s a great second chance for him as he gets into the later years of his career.
It would certainly be a great storyline if the elder goaltender can find some success. Or he might stink it up, and we could see more of the young Arvid Soderblom up with the big club this season. Neither would actually be a bad thing. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out.
Goaltenders Mrazek and Stalock in the crease doesn’t exactly exude confidence for the Blackhawks this season. But they are both veterans with a job to do, and that’s to support this rebuilding team as best they can. Perhaps they’ll surprise everyone. I sure that’s their goal.
Is it October yet?!
Gail Kauchak has covered the Chicago Blackhawks as a content writer since 2014. She previously wrote for Fansided’s Blackhawk Up, and has been part of The Hockey Writer’s team since 2017. It’s not always easy to balance life’s responsibility’s with one’s passion, but Gail’s doing her best to make it happen. Quote to live by, “Follow your dreams, and good things will happen.” Wait, maybe it’s “Good things happen when you shoot the puck!” You get the idea.
Follow Gail for her unique commentary about this storied franchise. And be sure to catch her and the rest of the Blackhawks’ crew on their weekly Blackhawks Banter show, as well as follow her on Twitter.