The 2019-20 season officially came to an end on Monday when the Tampa Bay Lightning captured the Stanley Cup after 65 days in the bubble, which means all 31 teams can now shift their attention to the 2020-21 campaign.
There are six days until the 2020 NHL Draft and nine until free agency opens up. The Blackhawks have nine pending restricted free agents and four unrestricted free agents, the latter of which includes Corey Crawford.
In his pre-draft media availability on Wednesday, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman was asked whether he’s optimistic the team and Crawford will eventually come to an agreement.
"I’m always an optimist," Bowman said. "I would say in every situation I’m always looking on the bright side, but until something comes to completion, I don't know, I can’t really comment. But we still have time on our side here and that’s what we’re working through. We’re realistic that that's a possibility, but that’s not what we’re focused on. We’re looking at that and optimistic to do something like that."
Yes, the Blackhawks still have some time between now and Oct. 9. But the reality is, they can’t move forward until there’s more clarity surrounding Crawford’s situation because he's the top priority and understandably so.
Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome are among the most notable pending RFAs, but the Blackhawks must know what Crawford's potential cap hit comes in at before they take care of the rest or else the organization risks handcuffing itself financially going into free agency.
"Sometimes things take time and as much as you’d like to do them on your own timeline, it doesn’t work that way," Bowman said. "There are two sides to a negotiation. Very respectful conversations with all the agents, so there's really no animosity, it's just sometimes there’s work to be done.
"I think the sooner you can do things it gives you the ability to plan out the next season a little bit better, but that’s what we’re doing right now anyway. Our job is to be planning on several different fronts. We're never just assuming one thing's going happen. We have to always be looking at the other options, assuming that something doesn't happen. So, we've done that and we have a lot of contingent plans in place. It’s going to have to resolve itself in the coming week or two."