Sunday, the Chicago Blackhawks announced they have reached a deal on a six-year, $36 million contract with goaltender Corey Crawford. Beginning in the 2014-15, Crawford will carry an annual salary cap hit of $6 million per season.
If your first reaction was "six years?", you're not alone. Those were my first words when I awoke and read the press release.
To say this move is unexpected is an understatement. Yes, Crawford's deal was up after this season, and it was a safe assumption that he would be back with the club for the 2014-15 season. However, it's extremely "un-Bowman" to lock up a goalie to that long of a deal. Couple that with the recent signing of Finnish goalie Antti Raanta, and you can see why this contract is such a surprise.
Before the financial terms of the deal were announced, I assumed that Crawford had potentially sacrificed money for term, but that's clearly not the case here. $6 million is a bit too much for me. Yes, Crawford has proven himself as a Stanley Cup capable goaltender. To most who watched the Hawks in the playoffs for the entire run, Crawford probably deserved to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He was extremely steady and even stole a few games throughout the run, but it's a very expensive and long deal. However, Crawford's glove hand issues, while overblown, remain a real issue. This contract puts Crawford in the top 6 annual cap hit category. I'm not sure he's one of the top 6 goalies in the league. Top 10? Yes. Top 6? I don't think so.
Stan Bowman has earned the benefit of the doubt. The salary cap is expected to make a large jump in the coming years. It's safe to assume that Bowman knows what he can and can't afford to pay players. It's clear he has a long view plan. Let's just hope it jumps enough to keep this team as competitive and deep as it was last season.
The next major order of business will be re-signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, whose deals expire in two years.