The Blackhawks took care of some housekeeping items last week when they agreed to terms with a pair of 2017 draft picks on entry-level deals and re-signed two of their pending restricted free agents, which included goaltender Kevin Lankinen.
On Monday, the Rockford IceHogs announced they inked goaltender Tom Aubrun to a two-year AHL contract. He's coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he was named the NEHC Player and Goaltender of the Year for NCAA Division III. At Norwich University, Auburn went 50-8-5 with a 1.27 goals against average, a .946 save percentage and 20 shutouts in 65 career appearances.
The Blackhawks now have three goaltenders under NHL contract for the 2020-21 season (Collin Delia, Lankinen and Matt Tomkins) and one on an AHL deal (Aubrun). The goaltending situation for next season is quickly taking shape at all levels, with Delia or Lankinen expected to be in big leagues, the other manning the crease in Rockford with Tomkins, and Aubrun possibly getting his feet wet with the Indy Fuel in the ECHL.
Which leaves us with the biggest question of them all: Corey Crawford, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent.
It's no secret the 35-year-old, two-time Stanley Cup champion wants to continue playing hockey, prefers to finish his career in Chicago and believes he can still be an everyday starter.
Crawford certainly strengthened his case when he started 10 straight down the stretch and went 6-4-0 with a 2.41 goals against average, .930 save percentage and 6.17 goals saved above average before the NHL put its season on pause.
Because of the COVID-19 crisis, it's difficult to project what a fair deal between Crawford and the Blackhawks would be due to the uncertainty of what next season's salary cap could look like. However, it might mean both sides could be willing to come to an agreement on a shorter-term, team-friendly contract given that every other team in the league will be dealing with financial challenges as well.
The future of the 2019-20 season and whether the Stanley Cup will be awarded remains unclear, so there's not necessarily an urgency to figure it out right now. But the Blackhawks don't have a proven NHL starter among the four goalies currently under contract, which means filling the most important position appears to be the final order of business on the goaltending agenda after rounding out the rest of the group.
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