The Chicago Blackhawks are going to need a goaltender to lead them in the future. With Marc-Andre Fleury on an expiring deal, Kevin Lankinen could take on a big role with the team next year and beyond.
The Blackhawks have just one goaltender signed for next season as of right now. Arvid Söderblom is the only netminder with a contract, and while the young 22 year old netminder might have a future in the NHL, I do not think next year is the year the team tosses him to the wolves in the NHL with no one else around to back him up.
Who knows what Marc-Andre Fleury decides to do. I do not think he re-signs with the team, and I also would think that if the team is still out of playoff contention by the deadline they will trade him to give him a chance to play for a Stanley Cup again. So for now we are assuming Fleury is out of the picture for next season.
Kevin Lankinen has put in the work. His numbers this season are not perfect, but to be fare that might be the case when your team loses their first ten games right? Lankinen earned his spot last season beating out Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban, and he was the only goalie out of the three with no NHL experience at the time. While he fell off at the end of the year he was a rookie still trying to find his footing in the net a little bit.
This season Lankinen has not been perfect, but their is still a lot of hockey left to be played and chances are he will be good to go if his number is called to be the starter next year. Lankinen will have had a year with a future Hall of Famer in Fleury to learn and develop and figure out what it means to be an elite goaltender in this league. Then the 26 year old will be ready to be the guy in Chicago at least as young goalies like Soderblom and Drew Commesso develop and eventually take over the next in three to five years.
I hope the Blackhawks sign Lankinen to a long term deal following the season. Two million for three years seems fitting for what he has done so far, especially considering the start of this season has definitely dipped his numbers down a bit. We will have to wait and see what happens as the team gets further into the season and if the team decides to trade Fleury when the deadline approaches.