The Chicago Blackhawks have done an outstanding job of keeping their core group of players intact over the last several years, despite salary cap restraints that forced them to cut loose a good portion of their Stanley Cup winning team from 2010 over the couple of years that followed.
This time around, there were no such problems, as the Hawks will return largely the same team that won a Stanley Cup title in 2013. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the future, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will each be in need of contract extensions after this season.
One player who the Hawks will also have some interesting in locking up in the future is Corey Crawford. However, at this point, it might be more likely that Crawford is heading into his last season with the club. Crawford is coming off of an outstanding season in which he likely deserved the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, and is heading into the last year of his contract.
Set to become a free agent after this upcoming season, teams are going to pay top dollar for Crawford’s services should he hit the free agent market. Crawford will carry a cap hit of $2.66 million in 2013-14. That figure could very well triple, or at least approach that type of range, on the open market.
If the Blackhawks want to retain Crawford, it will likely have to come on a contract extension. That will prevent other teams from driving up the price, while also getting him locked up before he has the opportunity to put together another outstanding season like he did in 2013.
Of course, while the salary cap is going up in the next year, it’s important to note who the Hawks have to sign long term. Toews and Kane need deals. Andrew Shaw is a restricted free agent next summer. Brandon Saad is eligible for an extension. There are other factors at work.
Ultimately, the Blackhawks will only sign Crawford long term if they think the money can work with their other players that need to be locked up. That isn’t terribly likely, but it’ll be interesting to see if they even try and approach Crawford about a new deal before the season gets underway.