Chicago Blackhawks Bolster Goaltending Depth With Mac Carruth
Normally, the re-signing of a minor league goaltender wouldn’t draw much attention. But the Chicago Blackhawks have so little goaltending depth at this moment, it’s worth a mention. Plus, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made an important announcement about the same time as Mac Carruth‘s contract was announced. More on Gary’s announcement later.
Let’s start with Carruth, who inked a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on Tuesday to stay with the only organization he’s ever known. Carruth spent a majority of his 2015-16 season with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, posting a 12-10-3 record with a 2.43 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
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He saw a little success when he transitioned to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs toward the end of the season, coming away with a 6-5-2 mark, .926 save percentage, 2.30 GAA and two shutouts. That improved his career mark in the AHL to 10-8-3 and upped his career save stats to .923/2.56 at that level.
Carruth, a seventh-round selection by the Blackhawks in the 2010 draft, really is an important re-signing (the cost is likely minimal). At 24 years old, there’s still time to develop him into the starting or backup goaltender of the future for the Blackhawks. Remember, Corey Crawford didn’t get his first big NHL push until he was 26 years old, and that’s turned out pretty well for him.
Crow is now 31 years old, and the only conceivable option to take over in his immediate steed is Scott Darling, who is currently 27. Darling was hit and miss in his 2015-16 action, though he proved better when he got more consistent action in net (when Crow was hurt).
Regardless of whether or not the Blackhawks brass thinks of Darling as the next starter when Crow is finished, Carruth needs to be kept around and developed to work for a spot as well. Michael Leighton isn’t going to be around much longer (he’s older than everyone in this conversation at 35), and the Blackhawks’ goaltending depth doesn’t go much deeper than these four guys.
Now, while we’re on the topic of organizational depth, let’s hit on Bettman’s big announcement. The NHL has reportedly decided to expand to Las Vegas, with the 2017-18 season being the earliest a team could begin playing out of the city. A $500 million start-up fee would also be required.
This expansion is a big deal for all of the NHL’s current 30 teams, specifically from a standpoint of losing players to an expansion draft. Among the rules of this expansion draft (per The Globe and Mail):
— Las Vegas will be required to draft one player from every existing team, including at minimum at each position: three goalies, nine defensemen and 14 forwards.
— Teams cannot reacquire players they trade after Jan. 1, 2017, prior to Jan. 1, 2018. This is to prevent teams from entering arrangements to “hide” players from the expansion draft.
— Teams have to expose to the expansion draft at least two forwards and one defenseman who have played either 40 games in the previous season (2016-17) or 70 games in the previous two seasons (2015-17). Teams can only lose a max of one player.
— Teams must protect players that have no-movement clauses active in the 2017-18 season. No-movement clauses active in 2016-17 will have no impact. There will likely be exceptions made for players with no-movement clauses who are out with career-ending injuries (i.e. Ryane Clowe and Nathan Horton). Teams are not expected to be forced to protect those contracts.
Who the Blackhawks would expose to this draft is entirely unclear at this point, as the process is still another year off, at least. It’s a scary prospect, to be sure, as the Blackhawks have some young talent that you know they would be concerned to lose, but that they’d also be most likely to expose to the draft given the contract situations for the elder statesmen.
While the Blackhawks would lose just one player, what if it was someone like Artemi Panarin or Teuvo Teravainen? Or another youngster who makes a huge impact next season, but who the Blackhawks feel they’ll have a tough time signing to a long-term contract moving forward?
Change is coming to the NHL, and it’ll be interesting to see how it impacts the Blackhawks and other teams already in the fold.