Chicago Blackhawks: What Happens if Corey Crawford Departs?

Kyle WahlgrenCorrespondent IMay 4, 2011

Chicago Blackhawks: What Happens if Corey Crawford Departs?

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    A year ago we sat and speculated whether Antti Niemi would be brought back for a second season with the Chicago Blackhawks.  Now we sit and wonder the same, but with Corey Crawford.

    Unlike circumstances from a year ago, the Blackhawks have a bit more wiggle room in terms of salary cap space.  On top of that, Stan Bowman has come out to announce that the re-signing of Crawford is of utmost importance this off-season. 

    It would be a huge surprise to see Crawford throw on any sweater other than a Blackhawks one.  With other needs in addition to this could very well lead to another goalie change.  While a very long shot, here are a few that may fit the crease in 2011.

Tomas Vokoun (2010 Team: Florida Panthers)

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    Clearly Tomas Vokoun is one of the more premiere netminders in the 2011 free agent pool.  His price tag is a bit high ($5.7 million), but seemingly entering a time period of drastic cuts to goalie spending will lead to a cut in salary.

    Regardless, any team that signs Vokoun will get an immediate impact player.  If any prediction is to be made it is that Vokoun will in turn be the steal of the off-season.  Will he be a filler as Marty Turco was in 2010-11?  Absolutely not. 

    Vokoun may be aging, but after establishing statistics that he has over the past four years while being on the Florida Panthers is an amazing achievement.

Ilya Bryzgalov (2010 Team: Phoenix Coyotes)

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    Obviously another long stretch, Ilya Bryzgalov has a name that has become synonymous with stifling many NHL forwards.  With as big of frame that Bryzgalov can present, the issue doesn't revolve around capability.  It revolves around a price tag. 

    Being only 30 years old, many years remain in the ever maturing future of Bryzgalov.  While it would be a mind-numbing perspective in even imagining a goalie of this caliber to step in if Crawford walks, don't dream too long for the fact that he already is making $4.25 million. 

Brian Boucher (2010 Team: Phildelphia Flyers)

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    While still in the playoffs it is hard to speculate where the Flyers will go with Boucher in the off-season.  After enduring a season-long carousel, it would be hard to imagine Boucher still in a Flyer sweater next fall.

    Would it be the best option for the Blackhawks?  Probably not.  At 34 years old, the Blackhawks would be committing to the same contract as they did with Turco last summer.  Should Boucher be brought to Chicago, it would be to back-up Crawford.

Ray Emery (2010 Team: Anaheim Ducks)

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    After a poor showing in the playoffs, Emery will be looking to regain composure while finding comfort in a new home.  Being only 28 years old, he has plenty of time to right the ship in which at one point looked very impressive.

    Emery would be a good alternative should they fail to meet Crawford's needs.  He brings solid capabilities with many years still ahead of him.  While making only $950,000 this season, it will be expected that he will receive a pay raise which the Blackhawks may or may not be able to afford.

Joey MacDonald (2010 Team: Detroit Red Wings)

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    Why not steal from division rivals?  He served as a very respectable back-up goalie to Jimmy Howard.  Unfortunately a future as a back-up seems true should any goaltender stay in the motor city.  With Howard relieving Chris Osgood of duties it seems the long term plan just needs someone for a night here and there.

    While MacDonald saw limited action, he still accumulated three shutouts and five wins.  He would be a good fit for a year or two at most, but is definitely not your ideal long-term fix.

    It is true... they Blackhawks must find a way to sign Crawford.  Life could only get more difficult should they not as they may not have the funds to get the cream of the 2011 free agency crop.  The question is... Will the Blackhawks once again enter another season with goaltender questions or will they make Corey Crawford part of the coveted core of performers?

    Kyle Wahlgren is a former featured columnist for Bleacher Report and is owner of Chicago Sports Authority.