Crawford just might be back with Chicago Blackhawks

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford makes a save against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

    Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford makes a save against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

 
 
Updated 1/16/2020 7:23 PM

Less than a week after Robin Lehner fired his "I'm-not-taking-a-discount" missile, Corey Crawford went and dropped his own contract bombshell.

Crawford, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July, told the Sun-Times' Ben Pope that he does want to play again next season and that he doesn't expect to be in a backup role.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I'm a pretty competitive guy," the Blackhawks' goalie said. "(I) feel like I could still make a difference on a team, to make a run at a championship. That's where my head's at.

"Never really had a role of sitting on the bench and being part of that situation."

Crawford, who improved to 6-0-2 in his career at Montreal in a 4-1 victory Thursday, is having a decent season thus far with a .908 save percentage and 3.00 goals-against average. Last season, he posted the exact same save percentage and a 2.93 GAA.

Those numbers are a far cry from how Crawford fared from 2010-18 (.919, 2.36), but the Hawks are also far from the team than the one he backstopped to Stanley Cup titles in 2013 and '15.

For example, according to naturalstattrick.com, no goalie with 600-plus minutes faces more high-danger shots per 60 minutes than Crawford (10.47). To put that in perspective, Montreal's Carey Price -- who ranks 28th of 55 qualifying goalies -- faces just 7.77 per 60.

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Crawford's .847 save percentage on high-danger chances ranks a solid 10th. Eight goalies are at .800 or worse.

It's difficult, though, to say what Crawford would command in the open market.

His experience and winning pedigree would clearly be valued by many general managers. His age (35) and injury history, however, likely would work against him.

Crawford wasn't resigned to leaving Chicago. As a matter of fact, he believes the Hawks "could be competitive quickly" because of how the younger players are improving.

Still, it seems extremely unlikely that the Hawks could bring both Lehner and Crawford back next season, especially with the 28-year-old Lehner expecting to command at least $6 million a year and more likely something like $7 million to $8 million.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When I asked general manager Stan Bowman about it about a month ago, he wasn't particularly concerned about the situation, noting that there's plenty of time to figure out which road the Hawks should take.

"The idea coming into the year was every night we were going to have a top-notch goalie in net and that was going to be something that was going to help our team be competitive," Bowman said. "That's been the case. They've both been dynamite. So for the short term, let's just keep going with it.

"We're going to have to sort (the goalie situation) out before next year, but we've got to let it play out longer. Whether it's in the spring or in the summer, we will sort it out."

The guess here is Lehner signs a five-year deal with the Hawks between $30 million and $39 million. If it's on the lower end of those numbers, Bowman should offer Crawford something like a one-year, $3 million deal, or perhaps a two-year, $5 million deal. (Cap space could be an issue, but there are plenty of ways to free some up).

It seems unlikely that Crawford would take it, but who knows? He recently bought a home in the city, his wife is from the area, and they are expecting a second baby this year.

Crawford's also comfortable playing in Chicago, and he gets along famously with Lehner.

All of those factors may not be enough to lure Crawford back, but -- assuming my Lehner prediction comes true -- Bowman should at least give it a try.

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