The Chicago Blackhawks need a goaltending upgrade for the here and now and for the long-term future. They defaulted at the draft last weekend by waiting until the seventh round to pick any netminding prospects and failing to trade for an established professional.
At the start of this weekend, career-long New Jersey Devils backstop Martin Brodeur had yet to sign a new pact with his team. As early as Friday, the Blackhawks were among those prominently listed as potential suitors should Brodeur still be on the market when all free agents were officially turned loose on Sunday.
Now is the time for the Hawks to act as that release time has officially passed and no new deal with the Devils has been declared.
They Blackhawks and Brodeur can be common solutions to each other’s problems as the future Hall of Famer seeks a slight extension to his NHL career and Chicago seeks to plug its most gaping cavity.
The 40-year-old can keep his ambitions alive while keeping the crease comfortably warm until he is ready to retire and the Hawks are ready to install a newer, younger stopper.
Corey Crawford can still stabilize himself down the road and the Blackhawks can still acquire and foster a handy backup/heir-apparent for the long run.
At the same time, if they are to verify that there is more where their 2010 Stanley Cup championship came from, they need someone who is ready to reliably back his skating mates without delay.
Chicago finished the 2011-12 season sixth in the Western Conference and fourth in the ultra-competitive Central Division. Ahead of them were a St. Louis team backed by the William Jennings Trophy-winning tandem of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak, a Nashville team bolstered by Pekka Rinne and a Detroit team relying on All-Star Jimmy Howard.
In their second-straight dismissal from the opening round of the playoffs, the Blackhawks lost three out of five overtime staring contests with the Phoenix Coyotes. In Game 6, Phoenix subsequently dealt a 4-0 knockout that was thoroughly indicative of the difference between Crawford and celestial counterpart Mike Smith.
The No. 1 need in the hockey half of the United Center could not be much clearer.
Since he is now available, who better to meet that need than the age-defying legend who just brought the Devils to within two wins of another Cup after nearly a decade of mediocrity?
So much the better since he would come at no cost beyond a simple salary and cap hit.
The Blackhawks can either aggressively pursue Brodeur or trade potentially valuable skaters for someone like the pressure-averse Roberto Luongo, who may not even be leaving Vancouver after all.
Or they can flirt with risky odds by dealing for self-idled Boston backstop Tim Thomas and try to instill a change of heart from his plan to take the 2012-13 season off.
Or they can just keep banking on the likes of Crawford, Ray Emery, Carter Hutton and Alec Richards. Or they could dip into the pool of other free-agent goaltenders who do not measure up to Brodeur in any fashion, which would basically be the impactful equivalent of standing pat.
Even if it’s for one or two seasons just to hold themselves up until the future burgeons, the Blackhawks have everything to gain if they nab Brodeur.
Brodeur’s unquestionable incentive to claim one more title before hanging up the pads ought to fuel him to another sound campaign. In turn, he can make Chicago all the more competitive in the next Central Division derby and subsequent Stanley Cup tournament.