Blackhawks

Bowman on Toews, trades, and his new job

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Bowman on Toews, trades, and his new job

Blackhawks vice president and general manager Stan Bowman was a guest on "NHL Live" on NHL Network Wednesday afternoon, and backed up what head coach Joel Quenneville told the media the previous two days concerning the severity of what appears to be a hand or wrist injury Jonathan Toews sustained last weekend, forcing him to miss Tuesday's loss to Nashville.

"Most likely," Bowman replied when asked if the captain would be ready after the All-Star break. "It's certainly not a long-term injury. We'll see how he does with a little bit of work on the injury. We have a long road trip coming up, starting in Vancouver next Tuesday and we're targeting him to play in that game, and he's on track to hopefully be ready by then."

As for his assessment of his team, Bowman told co-hosts Deb Placey and Ken Daneyko fourth in the division and sixth in the conference isn't good enough.

"I think there's room for improvement" Bowman said. "We've had a good first 50 games for our group. We've put ourselves in a decent position going forward. There's four teams in our division who are on pace for 100 points, which is hard to believe, really. We have a lot of games against those teams. We're looking to improve our overall consistency. I think when our team plays to our level, like when we've gone on some winning streaks this year, we're very tough to beat, but there's other times we've struggled.

"We're looking to improve our team through trades, but as you can see, there's not a lot happening on that front. A lot of talking, but I think it will speed up a little bit as we get closer to the deadline. But right now, it's a wait-and-see approach, and trying to find answers from within."

Bowman was then asked how aggressive he's been looking to deal, and reiterated what he's recently told the Chicago media about where he's looking to upgrade.

"I've talked to a lot of general managers over the last few weeks, going back to December, just trying to get an idea of what they're looking to do and I've tried to make it clear what we're trying to do," he said. "Right now, we're seeing a slowdown because there's nobody really ready to sacrifice their season yet and start trading away their valuable players. I've had a lot of conversations and letting people know we're willing to trade but there's nothing happening at the moment.

"In general, you can never be too deep at the center ice position. We've got a lot of young players who've stepped in and helped us this year, but I think having depth there is important. Same thing with defense. We've got eight defensemen with us right now who I think all can play. We've got a couple kids in the minors whom we're high on and could also contribute, but if you're looking for that proven NHL defenseman, that's something we have to look at."

The NHL trade deadline is Monday, February 27th, at 2 p.m., Chicago time.

Bowman was a guest primarily to discuss being added by USA Hockey to the U.S. Mens National Team Advisory Group in leading the selection of American-born players for international competitions. He'll join a panel that already includes Toronto's Brian Burke, Philadelphia's Paul Holmgren, Dean Lombardi of Los Angeles, Nashville's David Poile, Ray Shero of Pittsburgh and former Atlanta Thrashers executive Don Waddell.

"I'm very thrilled to have the opportunity to help out any way I can," said Bowman. "They did a phenomenal job in the team they prepared for Vancouver, coming so close to the gold medal. We're certainly aiming to repeat that performance, but it's not an easy task. There's a lot of players to evaluate and try to assemble to compete against the other great countries. It's an opportunity for me to be exposed to different things and contribute to not only the Olympic team, but the World Championship team."

The next event for which Bowman and the six others will need to assemble a team for is the IIHF World Championships May 4-20 in Helsinki and Stockholm.

Robin Lehner on things not working out with Blackhawks

Robin Lehner on things not working out with Blackhawks

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner has only been with the Vegas Golden Knights for three days after being traded by the Blackhawks ahead of Monday's deadline. 

In a complicated transaction, Lehner was first traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for winger Martins Dzierkals, a 22-year-old unsigned draft pick. Lehner and Dzierkals were then traded to Vegas, getting the Blackhawks goaltender Malcolm Subban, defenseman prospect Slava Demin and Vegas' second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist has drawn attention for talking about how things were handled with the Hawks twice already in the three-day span. 

RELATED - Robin Lehner opens up on getting traded by Blackhawks

After a Knights' practice on Thursday, Lehner was asked if his pending unrestricted free agent status was weighing on him. 

“To be honest, that’s not weighing on my mind," Lehner told Vegas media. "There was other things weighing on my mind. I mean, I haven’t played to my potential the last few weeks and there’s a few things that kind of played into that. 

"I went to Chicago to help them out and got promises of getting a fair chance to play. I came there with a good mindset to fit into the team. I mean, I didn’t play much in the beginning or the middle-beginning of the season, even if I played really well and had a good camp. 

"Eventually I took over and I think I won like nine out of 10, 12 out of 15, and we walked up one point behind a playoff spot. Then all of a sudden, I found myself on the bench for no reason. That was tough. Plus, negotiations had totally died out.” 

Lehner signed a one-year, $5 million free agent contract with the Blackhawks. He and Corey Crawford equally split the net, with Lehner getting the edge in quality performances the first half of the season. 

Crawford had a .939 save percentage from Jan. 15 to the trade deadline. Lehner's was .899 during that span.

“At the end of the day, we’re players playing for our lives and playing for contracts,” Lehner said. “I felt for two years I’ve played really well and I still can’t get something done, and I’m playing well and I can’t play. It hits your motivation part a little bit and I’ve got to do a better job of letting that kind of go away.

“I thought there was a future there and I did everything to get a future there, and I still couldn’t get a future there. In the end, the last couple weeks were tough, mentally, to kind of find a motivation needed.”

Lehner was 16-10-5 with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 33 appearances with the Blackhawks.

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What the Blackhawks goaltending tandem could look like in 2020-21 NHL season

What the Blackhawks goaltending tandem could look like in 2020-21 NHL season

Going into the 2019-20 season, the Blackhawks had arguably the best goaltending tandem in Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner. But both of them were on expiring contracts and we always knew there would be a point when the organization had to make a decision.

One of those decisions was made at the NHL trade deadline when the Blackhawks traded Lehner to recoup some future assets. But there's still one more to be made.

What will the goaltending duo look like next season?

The Blackhawks have two goaltenders under contract for the 2020-21 campaign: Collin Delia and Matt Tomkins, both of whom are with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

Kevin Lankinen, who was an AHL All-Star this season, is a pending restricted free agent along with Malcolm Subban, who was acquired by the Blackhawks from Vegas in the Lehner deal and is likely to serve as the backup for the rest of the season. Subban is arbitration-eligible, so, he has some control about how his next contract could look

Crawford is the only one of the group who is set to become an unrestricted free agent and he's the most established of them all. It's no secret that he wants to remain in Chicago and still believes he can be an everyday starter in the NHL.

Crawford's concussion history and the fact that he's 35 years old should certainly be noted when evaluating the future of the position but the Blackhawks should be encouraged by what they have seen from him this season. He's gotten better as the season has gone on and should get a bulk of the starts down the stretch.

All things considered, it would be a win-win for both the Blackhawks and Crawford to agree on a short-term extension. It gives the Blackhawks a couple more years to find or groom their future goalie and allows Crawford to finish his NHL career in Chicago as a starter.

Now, the question is: who will be his backup?

The Blackhawks saw enough of Delia to reward him with a three-year contract extension at a team-friendly $1 million cap hit, which kicked in this season. He was expected to be Crawford's backup if Lehner didn't surprise the hockey world by signing with the Blackhawks on July 1.

It should be Delia's job to lose going into training camp. He proved himself at the AHL level. He elevated his game during the Calder Cup Playoffs. And last season with the Blackhawks, he led the team in 5-on-5 save percentage (.925), high-danger save percentage (.866) and goals saved above average (2.96).

Subban is the wildcard. Besides Crawford, he has the most NHL experience of the potential candidates on the current roster but has struggled to take the next step with a career 2.97 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in 65 career appearances.

RELATED: What is the Blackhawks' big picture plan?

Another thing to consider is the 2021 expansion draft next summer. Every team is required to make available one goalie who is under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent at the end of his contract prior to 2021-22. The Blackhawks probably aren't a team that has to worry about this because the goalies in their pipeline have limited NHL experience but it's still worth noting.

The Blackhawks are in no rush to figure out the future of their goaltending situation but it will certainly be on their mind going into the summer.

"I wouldn't say we've mapped out who it's gonna be," GM Stan Bowman said. "We have a lot of candidates and we've got to make that choice between now and next season. We have Kevin Lankinen, Collin Delia, Subban and Crawford. We're going to have to sort through that and look at the options. I don't have that answer for you today but, obviously, we don't have a proven NHL goalie signed for next year, so, we have to address that before next year.

"That’s something that’ll play itself out over the next few months here leading into the summer. We do have some decisions to make. It’s early to handicap what’s going to happen with the goaltending position. We need time to reset and analyze that."

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