Why it makes sense for the Blackhawks to target Matt Murray

Jonathan Toews #19, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
Jonathan Toews #19, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images) /

While the Chicago Blackhawks look to get back to being contenders, adding a proven goalie to play alongside Corey Crawford could be a correct step to take.

There’s no denying that the Chicago Blackhawks have been searching to reclaim the success they became so used to throughout the 2010s. With the type of turnover they continue to see in team personnel, they clearly still haven’t found what they’re looking for.

The Blackhawks have an intriguing mix of talented yet inexperienced youth, with proven and powerful veteran leadership throughout the lineup as well.

A 22-year-old player like Alex DeBrincat is already illustrating signs that he’s poised to become a superstar in this league, while a 31-year-old Jonathan Toews continues to validate his value as a leader.

With those types of pieces already there, already contributing year after year, what’s missing?

Good Goalies Are Hard to Come By

Corey Crawford has had some stellar seasons in Chicago and is already considered to be amongst the franchise’s greats. But injuries have plagued Crawford the past few seasons, while a less potent team in front of him has made his job more stressful than it once was.

When the Blackhawks signed Robin Lehner in the 2019 offseason, it seemed to be a push to strengthen their stance at the goaltending position. They’d have a proven Crawford leading the way, with a reinvigorated Lehner there to pick up any slack.

Lehner played in 33 games for the Blackhawks throughout around three-quarters of 2019-20 season, indicating that he and Crawford had adapted to sharing the starter’s role in Chicago’s net.

Then Lehner was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2020 trade deadline, bringing Malcolm Subban back in return. Subban has shown he can fill the role as a solid backup, but this Blackhawks team might need more than that.

With the Chicago Blackhawks experiencing declines in team production the past few seasons, Crawford’s numbers have followed suit. However, he’s also still capable of successful streaks.

For instance, Crawford went 5-3-0 to cap off his most recent campaign, after Lehner was traded, earning a .921 save percentage throughout that span. This was on a Blackhawks team that ended in 12th place in the Western Conference, barely squeezing into a 24-team post-season.

He’s a good goalie, with more left to give this franchise, but there’s no harm in the Chicago Blackhawks looking to enhance the supporting cast around him either.

Finding the Right Fit

Considering a 26-year-old Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who is a restricted free agent this offseason, seems like a good place to start. Murray was part of a recent goalie tandem, which proved that sharing starting duties could work.

He and Marc-Andre Fleury found themselves splitting time in the crease en route to capturing Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. But Murray was their go-to in both championship rounds.

The point is, the Penguins capitalized on the abilities of both goaltenders. Pittsburgh relied on them collectively, knowing that one would step in to save the day if the other wasn’t already doing so.

Murray was rewarded with a contract extension in October 2016. Although he hasn’t seen a full schedule of gameplay since, due to various injuries in recent years, the numbers he’s accumulated to date deserve to be recognized.

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With Crawford as their obvious starter, and Subban the expected backup, the Blackhawks could benefit from shifting their strategy back to giving two proven stars the chance to play together.

Even with the ailments Murray has faced of late, at only 26 he might be the safety net that the 35-year-old Crawford needs. A younger Murray is likely to still manage better bounce backs.

Putting Pen to Paper

Crawford is up for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, as Chicago’s 2019-20 nominee, and he should be commended for the dedication and perseverance he’s shown to this franchise and its fanbase.

The Blackhawks have a number of goalies already in their system who might be worth a look in the near future. A player like Collin Delia has shown that his abilities can be of benefit to this team.

But, for now, Chicago needs to first focus on signing Corey Crawford. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season and he has earned a career extension with this organization.

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They should then work on adding someone who is more than capable of taking over when called upon, while also being prepared to steal a few starts and earn them wins when they need them.

Going into the 2020-21 season with added confidence in the capabilities of their crease, the Blackhawks might then be able to afford more forgiveness of the expected mistakes up front as their youth continue to develop.

Trending. A first overall pick that changed the franchise forever. light

In their search for a suitable goalie to share the crease with Corey Crawford, the Chicago Blackhawks need not look any further than directly towards Matt Murray.