Chicago Blackhawks’ Goaltending Depth Continues To Grow
By Sean Fitzgerald
The Chicago Blackhawks have spent this offseason working to improve an area of the organization that needed some help: goaltending depth
Coming into this offseason, the Chicago Blackhawks were lacking in the goalie department. The depth they had behind Corey Crawford was weakened because of the salary cap and ineffective play.
At the NHL level, the Blackhawks lost Scott Darling to Carolina in a trade. General manager Stan Bowman had to trade Darling for something or lose him for nothing. So Bowman moved Darling to Carolina.
In Rockford, Lars Johansson was a disappointment. Johnasson posted a .907 save percentage at the age of 30. Mac Carruth was brought back on a one-year contract last season. Despite improvements, I think we have seen the last of Carruth.
With Jeff Glass being on the only goalie outside of Crawford in the AHL/NHL, Bowman went to work on fixing the hole — and he has succeeded. Here are the new pieces Bowman has brought in.
Bowman decided this offseason he needed to address the goalie depth issue. In the Brandon Saad trade with Columbus, Bowman also acquired Anton Forsberg. He figures to be the backup to Crawford in the NHL. Forsberg had compiled impressive numbers with the Erie Monsters the last several seasons at the AHL level.
The ’Hawks are hoping they can develop him at the NHL level into a backup goalie, much like Antti Raanta and Darling in the past. Both Darling and Raanta did not have any NHL experience before joining the Blackhawks. Darling is now a starter in the NHL while Raanta is a fringe starter, so the ’Hawks do have a track record of developing goalies.
Jean-Francois Berube has appeared in 21 NHL games for his career. The rest of his career has been spent in the AHL/ECHL with the Kings and Islanders affiliates. Bowman brought in Berube for depth at the AHL level, but also as an insurance policy to Forsberg.
If Forsberg does not pan out at the NHL level, Berube could be your next backup option. He was a top-100 pick of the Kings back in the day, so he has some talent.
Collin Delia was a prospect camp invitee the last two years. The Blackhawks were impressed with how he raised his level of play from his sophomore year to his junior year at Merrimack College. He comes in on a two-year entry-level contract.
He could a be a diamond in the rough and hopefully blossom into a starter down the road. He is 21 years old, 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. He also could mean that Glass is sent to the ECHL or out of the organization.
Matt Tompkins was the Blackhawks’ seventh-round pick in 2012. He was not offered an NHL contract but was signed to an AHL contract. Scott Powers of The Athletic breaks down the benefits of the Blackhawks signing Tompkins to an AHL contract as opposed to an NHL contract.
To summarize the article, the ’Hawks can keep an eye on Tompkins for a year and see if he develops. If not, then they can move on without a long-term consequence. If he does succeed, then they can sign him to NHL contract right away. The ’Hawks do not want to lose him but want to wait and see on him.
Tompkins finished third in goals-allowed average and fourth in save percentage in the Big Ten last season. He went 12-5 with a .896/2.48 slashline. Tompkins figures to start the year at the ECHL level, which is a level at which he can play most nights and develop.
Next: Blackhawks' Crawford Most Important For 2017-18
Bowman now has a line of goalies to fill the void if Crawford gets hurts at the NHL level, and simply to develop so the Blackhawks have some goaltenders to choose from as Crawford ages. This is a smart commitment from Bowman, especially considering Darling’s offseason departure.