Chicago Blackhawks Countdown to Camp: How Will Things Shake out in Goal?
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The Chicago Blackhawks have had their share of drama between the pipes over the last few seasons. GM Stan Bowman has taken a proactive approach to Chicago's situation in goal this summer.
The position shouldn't merit a soap opera, but there are some issues to sort through in training camp next month.
For the first time in several years, the goalie who ended the season as the starter will begin the next in the same capacity. Barring injury, Corey Crawford returns as the main man at goalie after an impressive rookie season.
Crawford was signed to a three-year, $8-million deal back in May. If he proves capable of similar results to the 2010-11 season, the position is securely in his hands.
Over the rest of the summer, Bowman took care of adding some experience in an area that was a bit thin throughout the organization. As a result, there may be some jockeying for position below Crawford on the depth chart.
Bowman signed Alexander Salak the day after locking up Crawford. Salak, who came over from Florida with Michael Frolik in the Jack Skille trade, inked a two-year, one-way deal that suggested that he will serve as the backup.
It still may work out in that fashion, but it looks like he'll have to earn it.
Ray Emery, who was invited to training camp a few weeks ago, will muddy the waters a bit if he comes in and is as effective as he was when he played some key games for Anaheim.
Salak's success in the Swedish Elite League may not be enough to cement the spot behind Crawford. He may be destined for a year in Rockford with Alec Richards, who was re-signed by the club and figures to continue his development in the AHL.
Richards needs to spend his second full season as a pro working on consistency. He should get similar time in net this season after last year's 44 games.
Salak, who was solid in 48 games in Rochester of the AHL two seasons ago, and Richards might make a good tandem in Rockford if the 'Hawks decide the price is right with Emery.
If that's the case, how long does Bowman wait to talk contract?
If the Blackhawks decide to pass on Emery, things fall into place rather neatly. Crawford and Salak man the net in Chicago, and Richards teams in Rockford with Carter Hutton, a goalie previously in the Sharks organization.
The Ice Hogs signed Hutton to an AHL contract as money pit Cristobal Huet will again be in Switzerland on loan from the Blackhawks. All the other Chicago goalie prospects will be playing in juniors this season, so Hutton seems to be strictly a depth move.
If the 'Hawks go with Emery, Salak slides into the Rockford tandem, and Hutton likely heads to Toledo of the ECHL.
Nothing will change at the top for Chicago as Crawford settles in for his first full season as the starter. The action underneath him could prove interesting in training camp.
How does the Blackhawks roster look opening night? I'll take a shot at what the roster could look like in part five of the Countdown to Camp.
If your interested, here are the first three parts of my Countdown to Camp:
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