Chicago Blackhawks’ Backup Goaltender: Closer Look At The Options
By Colin Likas
After the Chicago Blackhawks moved Scott Darling last week, they created a new hole for themselves heading into the 2017-18 season
Some spots are easier to fill than other for an NHL team, and some are more important to fill than others. Backup goaltender may not seem as important a role as some others, but the Chicago Blackhawks currently need to find a new face to fill that slot.
The Blackhawks traded former backup Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday for a third-round draft pick. Darling was an unrestricted free agent to be, and general manager Stan Bowman decided to get what he could now.
And while that’s all well and good, it leaves the Blackhawks with a hole at what really is an important spot. No NHL goaltender in this day and age can play 82 regular-season games, plus whatever might come along in the postseason. The Blackhawks need to find someone to back up Corey Crawford moving forward.
Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the current options for coach Joel Quenneville and Co. when it comes to finding a backup for Crow next season.
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This 31-year-old sort of came out of nowhere during the 2016-17 season. If you’re a viewer of the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, then you’re a little more familiar with Glass than some other fans might be.
Glass (6-foot-3, 203 pounds) was taken by the Ottawa Senators in the 2004 NHL Draft’s third round. He mostly struggled in the AHL for parts of four seasons, never seeing NHL action. After that, he spent seven seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, finding a little more success.
His career trajectory changed when he signed a pro tryout contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2016 offseason. After a brief stint with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Glass found himself unemployed. That’s when he was signed to Rockford, eventually earning a two-year, two-way contract from the Blackhawks.
Last season in Rockford, Glass posted an 8-10-2 mark with a .914/2.63 slashline. Those are actually pretty respectable numbers for what was a bad team.
Glass is the definition of a journeyman goaltender, but the Blackhawks felt confident enough in him to make him the emergency backup during the team’s short-lived Stanley Cup Playoffs run. That would likely indicate Glass has the top chance at becoming Crow’s new backup, at least among the current options available.
Carruth has been part of the Blackhawks organization since 2010, when he was selected in the NHL draft’s seventh round. Since then, Carruth has spent time in the WHL, ECHL and AHL, never playing an NHL game to date.
Carruth, 25, checks in at 6-2, 180 pounds, so he’s bit slight of stature for a goalie. He’s also had his struggles, finding it difficult to stay in the AHL due to poor statistics. He’s played in parts of four seasons with the IceHogs, with arguably his best run being a .926/2.30 slashline in 2015-16, when he recorded six victories.
Since then, it’s been tougher sailing for Carruth. He spent more of the 2015-16 campaign with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel than with the IceHogs, notching a .918/2.43 slashline with the former team. This last season in Rockford, he struggled to a 5-11-3 campaign with a .879/3.64 slashline.
Again, this was in front of a pretty rough team, but Glass’ numbers in front of the same team were far better than Carruth’s. Carruth was losing playing time to veteran netminder Michael Leighton back in the day, so Carruth would have to work pretty hard this offseason to gain the backup job at the NHL level.
Not to mention, Carruth is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He may not even be with the team come camp time.
During the 2016 offseason, the Blackhawks signed Swede Johansson to a one-year contract. If the Blackhawks re-up him this offseason, he’ll also be in the running for the NHL backup slot.
Johansson is 29 and is even smaller than Carruth (6-1, 187). The 2016-17 campaign saw his first full-time action on North American ice, and it was an average outing. Johansson picked up 12 wins against 17 losses with a .907/2.75 slashline. So better than what Carruth did, but not quite what Glass achieved.
Johansson served as the backup to Darling after Crow had his appendectomy this season, but Johansson never saw the ice in a game. The Blackhawks adding him for this situation might indicate he’s the favorite to earn the backup spot, but his lack of North American experience and slightness of size could be detriments. Plus, what if his contract isn’t renewed to begin with?
Might as well include the youngster at this point, since the situation seems so fluid. Peeters was selected by the Blackhawks with a third-round draft pick in the 2016 event. The 18-year-old out of Belgium checks in at a sizable 6-4, 201 pounds.
Da Windy City
Peeters signed a tryout contract with the Rockford IceHogs in March of this year. This was more of a training move, as Peeters did not play any games for the AHL club. He did play 23 games for Finnish team Jokerit U20 this season, posting an .899/3.21 slashline.
Peeters has very little chance of making the club out of camp, especially considering he doesn’t have a pro contract. But hey, he could always heavily impress during prospect camp and training camp and become a sensational story.
A free-agent signing
This is the wild card. The Blackhawks could certainly find someone who was paid similarly to Darling ($587,500 cap hit) and who already has NHL experience. There are going to be options this offseason in the form of unrestricted free agents.
A short list of some of the guys who will be available, along with their cap hits this season:
— Anders Nilsson ($1 million)
— Mike Condon ($575,000)
— Peter Budaj ($600,000)
— Curtis McElhinney ($800,000)
— Keith Kinkaid ($725,000)
— Philipp Grubauer ($750,000)
Is it the sexiest list? Certainly not. But you’re looking for a reasonably-priced NHL-quality backup if you’re Chicago. The former because you’re cap-strapped, and the latter because you don’t want Crow to be out there 75 games in the next regular season.
Next: Gut Reaction On Blackhawks Forwards
Bowman could easily go out and sign a guy like this, or someone similar, depending on some other moves he makes this offseason. This may honestly be the favorite in the clubhouse, especially if Coach Q expresses a lack of confidence in his current in-house options to fill the backup role.