Blackhawks fans can stop worrying. No other teams will be sending offer sheets to Corey Crawford this summer in hopes of stealing the goaltender for themselves.
On Thursday, the Chicago Blackhawks finalized a contract extension with rookie goaltender Corey Crawford. According to reports, Crawford has signed a three-year extension worth $8 million, giving him an annual cap hit of $2.67 million.
Crawford will make $3.25 million next year, $2.25 million in the second year of this deal and $2.5 million in the third year.
There's no question that Crawford has earned the job of an NHL starting goalie, as well as the contract that goes with it. He's worked hard his entire career, has been patient and capitalized when he got his opportunity. He proved so much to a lot of people last season.
The timing of the extension comes as a bit of a surprise to Blackhawks fans after Eric Frances of the Calgary Sun reported that Crawford's agent, Gilles Lupien, and Stan Bowman had come up with three potential deals but would wait until draft day to complete the signing.
What made them finalize the extension nearly a month before they had advertised?
One possible explanation is that draft day was considered a deadline to sign a deal while both parties considered which of the three potential contracts would best suit them.
Another explanation could be that Bowman had intended to finalize the deal on draft day and Crawford simply said: "I just want to sign now and put the issue to rest."
There is some evidence to back this explanation up. Crawford said during the press release of his extension: "I really wanted to be part of the Blackhawks. I think the management and everyone there wanted me back too. It's great to get it done early. Now I can just focus on workouts and getting prepared for next season."
Whichever explanation you have, its really immaterial. Crawford is signed and will be a Blackhawk for at least three more years.
So what does this mean?
Well the Blackhawks finally, after years of searching, have a talented, reliable and undisputed starting goaltender. If that alone isn't something to be excited about for next season, I don't know what is.
Crawford emerged as the starter for the 'Hawks last season, stealing the job from veteran Marty Turco and posting some very impressive numbers in both the regular season and the playoffs.
In the regular season he had a .917 save percentage, a 2.30 goals against average, 33 wins and 4 shutouts, dominating most of the rookie goaltending categories.
In the playoffs he had a .927 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average and helped the Blackhawks claw their way back into the series against Vancouver, despite going down 3-0.
Crawford is a goalie that demonstrates tremendous character, poise and resiliency on a nightly basis, despite lacking extensive NHL experience. He has shown that he is willing to handle a large workload and will battle hard to give his team a chance to win.
What's even more exciting about Crawford is that there is still plenty of room for growth and improvement. As he continues to work on his game and become accustomed to the NHL style of play, he should only get better and better as an NHL goaltender.
Aside from the 'Hawks finally getting the starter they've been searching for, this signing means something else for the Blackhawks. It means that Stan Bowman learned from his mistakes last summer regarding his RFA's.
Instead of waiting until draft day, about a week before free agency and the deadline to sign Crawford, Bowman got a deal done now, which was the logical thing to do all along.
I went through some of the possible explanations as to why it might have happened now instead of draft day as supposedly intended. Maybe draft day was never the intention and it was false information. Maybe both sides changed their minds. We don't know and it really doesn't matter.
The important thing is that Bowman dealt with Crawford's extension with a sense of urgency to ensure he didn't face the same dilemma he did last summer with Niemi. Now that the contract is signed, both parties can turn their attention to other matters.
Crawford can begin preparation for next season, where I'm sure he will want some vindication.
And Bowman can focus on his other RFA's, the draft and who the Blackhawks need to pursue this summer in order to get back to the top of the list of Stanley Cup contenders.
But one roster position he won't have to think about is a starting goaltender. That's a relief for him and all of Blackhawks nation.