The short-term and long-term future of Chicago Blackhawks' goaltending

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The short-term and long-term future of Hawks goaltending originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson has a busy offseason to-do list, which most notably includes hiring a permanent head coach. But there are some other important roster decisions he will have to address, and one of those is the goaltending situation.

The Blackhawks currently do not have an NHL goaltender under contract for next season, with Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen set to become unrestricted free agents. Arvid Soderblom is signed through the 2022-23 season and Jaxson Stauber is signed through the 2023-24 season but both of them probably aren't ready to be full-time NHL players yet.

The Blackhawks have some time to weigh their options, but it's a unique spot to be in because they find themselves in a position where they have to make a decision on two goaltenders at the same time, not just one.

"We’re still pretty early in talking about that," Davidson said in his end-of-season press conference on May 3. "We definitely need to bring some NHL contracts in. Kevin [Lankinen] and Collin [Delia] are part of that discussion. They’re not out of that candidate list, but there’s some players that we’ll look at in free agency and see which direction we want to go.

"I'm not ruling out the trade market, either. You never know what presents itself, but it’s definitely an area that we know we need to address, quite simply because we don’t have anyone signed. And it’s something we need to put in place but we’re talking through that now and kind of formulating our game plan on what we want that to look like."

Here's the challenge Davidson and the management group have in trying to decide who the starter and backup might be: Chicago is at the beginning stages of a longer-term rebuild, which means next season is probably not going to be an ideal situation to develop a young goaltender. Heck, the year after that could be a struggle too.

Because the Blackhawks might be bad enough where they're in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick, it probably makes more sense to sign — or trade for — a Cam Ward-type veteran as the starter to get the Blackhawks through the next year or two so it doesn’t destroy the psyche of a prospect if/when things go sideways. There needs to be a stopgap option — Martin Jones? — like the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings have done in recent years by bringing in Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss before acquiring 2021 Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic and drafting Sebastian Cossa with the No. 15 overall pick last year to be their potential No. 1 goaltenders in the future.

In the meantime, the Blackhawks are hopeful they have some long-term options in the pipeline already. Soderblom has been one of the top goaltenders in the AHL this season, Stauber is coming off a successful collegiate career where he was named a Mike Richter Award finalist last season as the most outstanding goaltender in Division 1 hockey and 2020 second-round pick Drew Commesso might be the best of the bunch when it's all said and done.

"Most of them are not ready to step into the NHL, in any respect, but they're very promising," Davidson said. "Arvid Soderblom has been excellent in Rockford this year. He's been great and he's one of the major reasons why they are where they are in the standings with a relatively young team. As a young goalie himself, it's pretty impressive that he has been able to come over to North America and, in his first year, put the type of performance he has in and bring Rockford to a playoff play-in situation. He's getting some really good experience.

"We just signed Jaxson Stauber out of Providence College and we're really high on him, so he's going to be turning pro next year. And then we have Drew Commesso at Boston University who was on the US Olympic team and was selected for two World Juniors in a row. Both tournaments got sidetracked by COVID but he was going to be big parts of those teams.

"There's a lot of promise. I'm really excited, having spoken to and watched all of them play. There's a lot to be excited about in our prospect depth in net, which I don't think many people really talk about. For me, it's something I'm quietly really optimistic about."

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