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Chicago Blackhawks split with Corey Crawford, but was it about money?

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EDMONTON, ALBERTA - AUGUST 18: Chandler Stephenson #20 of the Vegas Golden Knights is stopped by Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 18, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
EDMONTON, ALBERTA - AUGUST 18: Chandler Stephenson #20 of the Vegas Golden Knights is stopped by Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 18, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. /
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Corey Crawford has signed a deal with the New Jersey Devils, and will definitely not be back with the Chicago Blackhawks. To that, I say, “Boo!” However, the lingering question is, “how did this happen?”

A lot of people were rightfully stunned at the news that Corey Crawford wasn’t coming back to the Chicago Blackhawks. The shock of the whole situation evolved further when it was revealed that the Devils had signed Crawford to a deal that wasn’t much different than what Chicago had offered their longtime netminder.

So where did it go wrong? No one really knows, and likely the full scope of the conversation will always be a secret. It was apparently a less cordial discussion than Chicago’s fans might have hoped for.

I think this whole situation was foreshadowed back in August when the league was preparing to return to play. Except for goaltending, Chicago sounded like giving young players postseason experience was a major component of the strategy, regardless of who their opponents were.

Back then, the fans all kind of believed Crawford was a lock to be the starter in the upcoming season, as the team re-tooled its roster with younger players. All those believers were wrong.

Now that the dust has begun to settle from this wild series of events, journalists such as Scott Powers at The Athletic quoted Crawford making some, frankly baffling comments about the recent negotiation process.

Did Bowman just have a plan he wasn’t sharing? It’s also not clear what Crawford thought was going to happen, but it is a bit surprising that negotiations appear to have not progressed beyond the initial offer. However, it might not be that surprising.

As numerous outlets had reported, Crawford wanted playing time more than money, but we all watched as Chicago played their youngest players just as much as the most grizzled veterans. If Crawford were to have a swan song with Chicago, it was the series with Vegas. We all just didn’t realize that was what was happening, but Bowman probably did.

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At some point, Bowman probably became more willing to admit that the team just wasn’t a competitor anymore and that something had to be done. I can’t help but wonder if part of the negotiations wasn’t Bowman asking Crawford to comeback in a supporting role. Maybe 40 starts for the season, at most.

This way, Crawford still plays a big part in the team, but the emphasis is on letting other goalies step in and accumulate valuable experience. At the end of the year, the best goalies would be given the job, but probably not Crawford.

This probably didn’t sit well with Chicago’s longtime netminder who already had to compete with Robin Lehner last season for playing time. Going through this again with younger, less-experienced goalies probably wasn’t a very appealing idea.

So, negotiations stalled, and Bowman just decided to walk away from Crawford as an option in net. I don’t know that this happened, it’s just speculation and would account for the arbitrary sums of money he was offered, as opposed to what he signed.

Was this the right choice? I guess that depends. Chicago’s longterm future shouldn’t be cast aside. Crawford is 35-years-old and has a history of injuries, including recent concussions. Even though he proved against Vegas that he’s still up to the task, at some point, something’s gotta give. Chicago isn’t good enough right now, and Crawford is a talented enough goalie that his skills help paper over the cracks in the defense. Maybe it’s time to accept the state of things, and let them be what they are.

That being said, this whole situation probably could have been handled a bit more diplomatically. Crawford has been with the team for a long time, and Bowman refusing to bring back the veteran goalie probably could have been handled with a subtler touch than how it was handled.

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At the end of the day, Crawford got the deal he probably wanted, but it was unfortunately not the team we all wanted to see him playing for. Here’s hoping Crawford has a great season, and that we learn that Delia, Lankinen, or Subban are truly ready to step into the starter’s role. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some more positive news as the offseason progresses.

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