Considering the issues Corey Crawford is supposed to have with his glove hand, one can understand why the Chicago Blackhawks might think that when they throw money at him, he's not going to catch it all.
Maybe he's better with his mitt than we thought. For Chicago's sake, he'd better be, especially after the Blackhawks announced a six-year, $36 million extension for their starting goaltender on Monday. From the Chicago Tribune:
The signing comes the same day the Montreal native has his day with the Cup. Last week, Crawford attended Team Canada's Olympic orientation camp in Calgary that could be the first step toward securing a roster spot for Canada during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
"There’s been a lot going on the last couple of months," Crawford said last week. "It’s pretty crazy to think about it after being in the minors only four years ago and thinking about whether I was going to make it or not to the NHL."
And now you're wildly, wonderfully overpaid. Amazing what the right situation can do for one's fortune(s).
I don't mean to knock Crawford. Not entirely, anyway. Looking at his accomplishments last season, you can understand how he could command the sort of money that he's been given. He had a season for the ages. A Jennings. A Presidents' Trophy. A Stanley Cup. His first shutout since the 2011 playoffs. It's the kind of year that gets you paid handsomely, and he was.
But I do mean to knock Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman, who still has another year of Crawford at a $2.66M cap hit and proooobably didn't have to negotiate this extension this summer, with Crawford was sitting at peak value. I mean, good Lord, the deal was announced on Crawford's actual day with the Cup. You can't possibly buy any higher than that.
Corey Crawford is a good goaltender, and he's obviously got what it takes to backstop a team to a Stanley Cup. But he's not a $6 million goaltender behind a non-juggernaut. (Reminder: Ray Emery went 17-1 and got a Vezina vote this year.) Chances are that another season -- a full season, I might add -- could have made that clearer.
It really couldn't have pushed his price tag much higher. And if it did, why, you just shuttle him off to San Jose and get a new guy. That's what the Blackhawks did last time and it worked out just fine for them.
It's funny to me to think of the difference between now and then. When Chicago let Antti Niemi walk after their 2010 Cup, the overriding opinion, which the move spoke to, seemed to be that you didn't have to overpay for goaltending. The Flyers, 2010's runner-up, certainly didn't. Since then, however, things have changed considerably: both of 2013's Stanley Cup finalists have paid through the teeth to keep their starting backstops, as did 2012's winner, the Los Angeles Kings. Eight years, $56 million for Rask. Ten years, $58 million for Quick.
In 2011, the Final featured Roberto Luongo versus Tim Thomas, two goalies being paid handsomely for their services. That may have been when this sea change started.
And speaking of Luongo, he may still think his contract sucks, but considering his cap hit over the next half-decade sits comfortably below Corey Crawford's, one assumes his club is starting to feel differently.
Finally, all of this has to come as good news for Henrik Lundqvist, who definitely won't be getting less than Crawford in his next extension.