Today was a great day for Chicago Blackhawks fans. The team’s undisputed number one goalie, Corey Crawford, returned to practice and split some time with Collin Delia, while facing some shots along the way. Crawford is still on injured reserve, and has been since suffering a concussion back in December and there is still no clear time table on when he would come back this season. After all, this is his second concussion, as his first one wiped out the final 47 games of the 2017-18 season and a couple games into the 2018-19 season.
While this is great news for the Blackhawks, who find themselves a mere two points out of the final wild card spot, it also represents a problem. Right now, the Blackhawks have two capable goalies in Delia and Cam Ward, whom they signed in the summer due to the uncertainty from Crawford’s first concussion.
Once Crawford comes off the injured reserve list, the Blackhawks are going to have three capable goalies to choose from. The way it’s looking, there are four viable options for Chicago and how to solve this issue.
- Chicago trades or sends Cam Ward down.
This is easily the hardest option for the Blackhawks. When Ward was signed during the offseason, his contract included a couple clauses that general manager Stan Bowman appears to love giving out: a no movement and full no-trade clause. With less than three weeks left until the NHL trade deadline, the Blackhawks would have to get Ward’s permission before they could either trade him or send him down to Rockford.
The other part of this equation would be finding a suitable trade parter. Right now, there are a couple teams that could use a goalie, like Pittsburgh or Columbus (should they trade Sergei Bobrovsky). Considering that Ward has a $3 million cap hit and is a free agent after this year, it’s not like he breaks the bank. His stats are not that great either, as he is 10-8-4 with a save percentage under .900.
He’s faced a tremendous amount of high danger shots, leading to a GAA of 3.75. Part of that can be attributed to the Blackhawks’ poor defense, but it’s still not that great. Ultimately, this is the least likely scenario given everything mentioned above. Even if the Blackhawks could get Ward to waive his no trade clause, teams won’t be willing to give up much for him. At best, they would get a fourth or fifth round pick.
2. Chicago sends down Collin Delia This is the most likely option to happen. Collin Delia has been absolutely phenomenal since being called up to Chicago when Crawford went down. Despite facing a million shots per game (slight exaggeration there), Delia has still posted a save percentage of .923. He’s 6-2-3 with a GAA of 2.98. In other words, he’s been absolutely stellar between the pipes, and has proven he will be Chicago’s goalie of the future.
Unlike Crawford or Ward, Delia is exempt from waivers, and can go between Rockford and Chicago without risk of losing him to another team. Provided that Ward says he isn’t going to waive his no movement no trade clause, and Crawford is 100% healthy, it’s extremely likely that Delia will be sent down, where he STILL leads the AHL in save percentage, despite not being there since December.
Is it fair to Delia to send him down after his great play? Not particularly, but that’s part of the business of the NHL. There are a couple more options that the Blackhawks can do, but none are exactly as easy as this.
3. Chicago keeps three goalies on the NHL level
Okay, there is virtually no chance this is going to happen. But, just for options sake, let’s pretend it does. The Chicago Blackhawks could bring back Crawford to join Delia and Ward. That would give them three goalies to choose from on a nightly basis. It could give Crawford the necessary time to heal and become 100% healthy while continuing to show off Ward for possible trade talks. It would also give Delia some repetitions while not risking any sort of overuse from the 24-year-old.
While all those are good qualities of this option, it’s just not going to happen. There is no justifiable reason to have three goalies on a viable NHL roster. Even if Chicago were to do it, it would be extremely hard to give everyone the starts that they need. This was just a fun option to consider. But even this one seems more likely than the final one.
4. Chicago trades Corey Crawford
Alright, before everyone freaks out, this has even less of a chance to happen than three goalies on an NHL roster. But, it is an option, however unlikely. Crawford becomes a free agent at the end of next season. Considering all of his recent health issues, Chicago could be looking at what to do next.
What would the Vezina-trophy caliper trophy goalie fetch in a trade? He’s making $6 million a year and is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. He simply makes any and every team better based on how he plays. Considering that Chicago has a plethora of goalies in the pipeline, they could get maximum value in terms of prospects and draft picks.
Once again, this is not going to happen. Chicago values Crawford too much to trade him. He’s still got one more year left on his deal. It’s going to be interesting what happens next year once Crawford is in the last year of his deal, especially if Delia continues on the path he is.
In conclusion, I feel the one that Chicago will go with is option number two. Once Crawford becomes healthy, there is virtually no chance that Chicago is going to keep three goalies on the roster. Ward could be traded, but he would have to approve anything. Chicago isn’t going to trade Crawford right now. It’s going to suck, but Delia is most likely going to get sent down to Rockford. He will return next season though, most likely as Crawford’s backup goalie.