Crawford and the Blackhawks finalized what is being reported by ESPNChicago.com as a six-year, $36 million contract extension. The team announced the deal on its website Monday. By Crawford's words to ESPN, this is shaping up to be a memorable holiday weekend.
To have a chance to bring the Cup back home, all of the people I played minor hockey with and grew up with and all of my family, is pretty special to start off with. To add this on top on it, it's amazing. I want to be in Chicago for my whole career. This is amazing to be able to do this and get this deal done.
Following his run to the championship this spring, Crawford has a year remaining on his current contract. The extension will kick in after the 28-year-old netminder collects $2.6 million for the 2013-14 season.
This extension represents a huge amount of faith in Crawford by general manager Stan Bowman. It also ends a lot of speculation as to how committed the 'Hawks were to their No. 1 man in net.
Finnish goalie Antti Raanta was inked to a one-year, $1.4 million contract earlier this spring. This suggested that he may have been seen as an eventual replacement for Crawford, who would not get the big bucks he desired in Chicago.
The dollars and length of the extension dispel that notion. It appears that the Blackhawks have hitched their wagon to Crawford as the starter for the next several years.
With big money comes a measure of risk. Bowman seems confident that we will see the goalie Crawford was this past season and not the model of his sophomore slump in 2011-12.
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, whom Crawford outdueled in the Western Conference semifinals, had similar struggles in his second full season in goal and rebounded. Crawford is following a similar career arc as Howard's six-year, $31.7 million extension kicks in this season.
Crawford's deal is a bit sweeter but similar in construction. Both deals begin at age 29 and will expire at age 35. Barring a trade, he may get his wish and remain in Chicago throughout his career.
The dollars thrust Crawford into the realm of the elite goalies in the league, regardless of whether you think he deserves mention there or not. The numbers he posted in 2012-13 were worthy of such status, but it is Crawford's future production that will be scrutinized.
The price tag may seem a bit much upon hearing about the signing. If the salary cap climbs in future seasons and the 'Hawks get consistent play from Crawford, it could turn out to be a pretty good deal.
Bowman could have let this upcoming season play out and attempted an extension in midseason. However, another big year in the net may have driven the asking price past what Bowman could offer.
Chicago is set up to allow for solid, if not spectacular, play in the crease to win. That may have allowed for Raanta or one of the 'Hawks' other goalie prospects to replace Crawford after this season. Bowman has chosen not to employ that option.
Bowman has had to jettison one Cup-winning goalie (Antti Niemi) in his tenure. In locking up Crawford, Bowman sends the message that he is hanging onto his most recent Cup winner in net.
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