Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman called giving goalie Corey Crawford a six-year, $36 million contract extension an easy decision for the team.
"We need to have a top-notch goaltender in our organization and we've got one in house," Bowman said Monday after the Hawks announced the signing. "He's grown up with our organization, and he's earned the ultimate with our group.
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"It was never a question in our mind that we want to commit to him. It's the most important position we have. We have a lot of faith in his ability. He's a young goalie, and he's certainly worked hard to get here."
Crawford's cap hit starting in 2014-15 will be a tidy $6 million. He went 19-5-5 last season with a 1.94 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. Crawford shared the Jennings Trophy with Ray Emery before leading the Hawks to the Stanley Cup, going 16-7 in the postseason.
"I want to be in Chicago my whole career," said Crawford, who will play under the terms of his old contract in 2013-14. "This is amazing to get this deal done."
The deal caps what has been a memorable last few months for Crawford, who won a Stanley Cup and Jennings Trophy, got engaged and was invited to the Canadian Olympic orientation camp for the first time.
The 28-year-old Crawford said he couldn't imagine a better time in his life.
"I don't think so," Crawford said. "It's just been getting better and better. I'm kind of on a bit of a high right now, and hopefully I don't come down from that. It's just been amazing, the last couple months, but I've said it before you've just got to shut it off and go back to work."
Crawford will be going back to work sooner than later with the Hawks ready to start training camp in a little more than a week in South Bend, Ind.
Crawford's deal is along the lines of what Mike Smith got with Phoenix (six years, $5.7 million); Jimmy Howard got from Detroit (six years, $5.3 million); and Kari Lehtonen got from Dallas (five years, $5.9 million).
The NHL salary cap is expected to only go up in the coming years from its present $64.3 million, which is good news for the Hawks with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane due new contracts in two years.
"We don't have the knowledge where the cap will be in two years, but we know we'll have a great goaltender," Bowman said.
Crawford has been rewarded for what he has accomplished as well as what lies ahead for him and the Hawks.
"Obviously, it's a reward for all the hard work, but it's more the confidence the team has in me to try and repeat and go for more championships," Crawford said. "That's how I look at it. I'm not going to put any extra pressure on myself. I'm just going to compete hard like I've always done."
The announcement came on Crawford's day with the Stanley Cup in suburban Montreal, and a week after his first Olympic camp.
"Attending Calgary (and the Team Canada camp), that was pretty special for myself," Crawford said. "I hadn't been able to do that yet for Team Canada in my career so that was pretty cool. Even though we didn't go on the ice, just to be part of it was definitely another step in my career."
The Hawks go into the season with 40-year-old veteran Nikolai Khabibulin as Crawford's backup. Khabibulin is replacing Emery, who signed as a free agent with Philadelphia.
Also waiting in the wings is Finnish rookie Antti Raanta.
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