The Blackhawks have a laundry list of items to address going into the offseason, but none more important than who the starting goaltender will be for the 2020-21 season.
Corey Crawford's six-year, $36 million contract has expired, and he's set to become an unrestricted free agent. At 35 years old, Crawford's best years are behind him, but he certainly showed this season (and postseason) that he can still play at a high level and carry the load as a No. 1 starter.
Will it be in Chicago? He hopes so.
"I would like to be back," Crawford said on Tuesday in his end-of-the-season media availability. "We still have a lot of great pieces on this team. To win another Stanley Cup in Chicago would be unbelievable. That's the No. 1 goal, is to win one more championship."
One thing is for certain: Crawford doesn't want to split time or be a backup. He understood the situation last summer after dealing with injuries in years prior, but Crawford feels he's at his best when he's stringing together starts.
"I don’t want to play half the games and sit on the bench for stretches at a time," Crawford said. "I think my value is just not as good doing that. I’m way more valuable playing games and playing consistently. It really depends on how much I’m going to be used. Salary, that can be discussed. That’s something that is not as important at this time. We’ll see how those discussions go, but staying in Chicago and trying to win again, that’s No. 1."
The Blackhawks have roughly $7.3 million in cap space for next season, which means it will be awfully difficult to re-sign Crawford and extend notable restricted free agents Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome without clearing out money. Crawford knows these are unprecedented times and he might have to be patient.
"I think it’s a tough time right now for free agents," Crawford said. "I don’t know how much is going to get done right away. I assume things will happen closer to next season. It’s going to be a waiting game, I think."
Crawford loves Chicago and Chicago loves Crawford. The expectation is that a deal will eventually get done if both sides are willing to make it happen, which appears to be the case.
The question is really about what Crawford's contract could look like and how that fits into the Blackhawks' financial structure.
"At this point, for the Blackhawks and for myself, I think short term may be better," Crawford said. "But who knows? I could turn around. I change my mind pretty quick. I could turn around and say, let’s sign something longer, three or four years. Maybe they decide, let’s do that. Until we talk and really discuss all the options, it’s really hard to say right now. It’s up in the air."