With the Chicago Blackhawks in rebuild mode, Stan Bowman wasn’t ready to sign a veteran goalie. Instead, he opted to give some youngsters a chance to earn the spot. Sending a clear message that the Blackhawks’ window had passed, Bowman could afford a year without results.
What was necessary, though, was a clear determination of player abilities and direction for the future. So, have any of the Blackhawks goalies staked their claim to the number one spot between the pipes?
An interesting question for sure, and sadly, a question without concrete answers. When evaluating goalies, I’m reminded of the adage in regards to coaches. A coach never deserves all of the accolades when things go well and never deserves all the blame when things go south. The same can be said of goalies. I’m sure everyone with a knowledge of Chicago’s roster knew that the goalies would struggle at times simply due to a defense short on talent and experience. Did either step up and take control?
Kevin Lankinen took most of the starts for Chicago. He posted a fairly strong 16-14-5 record. Lankinen has a .908 Save Percentage and 3.04 Goals Against Average. After giving up five goals in his first game, Lankinen went on to give up 2 or fewer goals in six of his next eight games. At this point, Blackhawks fans felt that Lankinen might be the goalie of the future. Like the team, however, Lankinen would have a lot of bright spots as well as a lot of struggles. For instance, in his last 13 games, Lankinen gave up three or more goals in 11 of those.
Malcolm Subban took the net in 16 games for Chicago this season. He posted a record of 6-8-1 with a .900 Save Percentage and 3.2 Goals Against Average. In those 16 games, Subban did have an impressive three shutouts; however, he also allowed four or more goals in seven of those games.
Both goalies posted similar numbers. Both had excellent moments and both were wildly inconsistent. Recently, both were guilty of giving up really bad goals. Compared to other goalies in the league, Lankinen ranked 46 in GAA and Subban ranked 50. These numbers are simply not good enough to take the pipes as the number one goalie for the Blackhawks next year.
Because the Blackhawks are still in rebuild mode, it’s doubtful that Stan Bowman will spend a ton on a number one goalie veteran. Lankinen or Subban could remain as a very dependable backup, but a number one will have to be found.
On Monday, Collin Delia entered the game once the Blackhawks were down 4-0. He faced 19 shots and gave up no goals. With only a few games left, Delia should get the start in those games to see what he has to offer. With 36 and 16 games respectively, Bowman knows what he has in Lankinen and Subban. It’s time to give Delia a solid look. Should that fail, it’s time to turn to a moderately valued veteran goalie.
Stan Bowman should look in that $3,000,000 to $4,000,000 range- first because it’s smart and second because the cap won’t allow much more until some huge contracts drop off. Phillip Grubauer will be available.
He has a .92 Save Percentage and currently makes $3,333,333. Petr Mrzak will also be available. He has posted a nice .939 Save Percentage and currently makes $3,000,000. He will likely get a raise, but could potentially be in the Hawks range.
There are other older veterans who could be available, but will likely be much more expensive. Those names include Tukka Rask, Pekka Rinna, Frederik Anderson and Devan Dubnyk among others.
Stan Bowman could also go after another potential youngster. Laurent Brossoit from Winnipeg comes to mind. He plays behind Conner Hellebyuk so didn’t get a lot of starts. He did, however, post some really nice numbers. He had a .92 Save Percentage and is relatively young at 28. The best news is that the Blackhawks could probably sign him for around $2,000,000 or just above.
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Stan Bowman will have some decisions to make. It’s pretty clear that Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban are solid backup goalies but not ready to anchor a team. Collin Delia will likely follow suit and Bowman will be forced to turn to trade or free agency. Bowman will want to move moderately, but keep in mind that fans won’t tolerate a stagnant rebuild forever.