Priority No. 1 for Hawks: Re-sign Crawford

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Priority No. 1 for Hawks: Re-sign Crawford

Wednesday, April 27, 2011Posted: 9:00 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Blackhawks brass will undoubtedly have their to-do list this offseason. No, it wont have as many drastic decisions on it as last summer, but there are still a few items to which the powers that be must attend.

So what should be the No. 1 task? Signing the No. 1 goaltender.
Corey Crawford waited for his chance and seized it this season, taking the goaltending reins and running with them. And he was there right to the end, nearly stealing the Blackhawks a Game 7 victory against the relentless Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

That was one of the greatest goaltending performances in clutch situations youre ever going to see, said coach Joel Quenneville after the game.

And to a man, Crawfords teammates echoed that sentiment. They believed in him, wanted to win for him and know they owe much to him.

So do his bosses.

Stan Bowman told Chris Boden a few weeks ago that he had initial talks with Crawfords agent and now that the seasons over they need to get talking again. Lets face it, folks. The Blackhawks do not want to be wandering into late Julyearly August again wondering who their No. 1 goaltender is going to be. They rolled the dice letting Antti Niemi go, but once he got the top job, Crawford showed that hes more than capable of being that guy. Yes, Niemi and the Sharks are playing on this postseason but the Finn looked shaky in several games against the Kings and got pulled in two of them.

The fact that Crawford wasnt a Calder Trophy finalist is a bit surprising. But so many awards have their list of contenders before the season even begins. Crawford wasnt a blip on the NHL radar when this past season began. Hes more than that now. During Game 7, some NHL writers tweeted that they wanted to review their Calder ballots again. Hes gotten everyones attention.

The Blackhawks will have about 8 million in cap space entering next season, give or take any moves they make. Set aside a quarter of that cash for Crawford he earned 800,000 in 2010-11 -- this season and the next. Hey, lets not get crazy here. Crawfords good, but this was his first full season in the NHL. Hell continue to grow and when he earns more money later, pay him more money later.

The Blackhawks got a second chance at goaltending this season. Crawford rewarded their patience and faith in him with steady play and crucial victories. Its time they reward him.
Toews a Selke finalist

Captain Jonathan Toews was named one of the three finalists for this seasons Frank Selke Trophy, awarded for the leagues best defensive forward. Vancouvers Ryan Kesler and Detroits Pavel Datsyuk are the other two finalists.

Toews led all Blackhawks forwards in plus-minus with his career-high plus-25. He had 95 takeaways. This is the first time Toews has been named a Selke finalist; he was third among Calder Trophy voting in 2008.

The winner will be announced during the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 22.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

What to make of Blackhawks blockbuster deals

What to make of Blackhawks blockbuster deals

Before the clock struck noon on a day Chicago was hosting its first ever NHL Draft, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman sent shockwaves throughout the city and hockey world by completing a pair of blockbuster trades within an hour of each other.

The first was dealing three-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona, and the second involving Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad in a swap of talented wingers with Columbus.

This comes two days after the Blackhawks announced Marian Hossa will miss the 2017-18 campaign with a progressive skin disorder. That's three core players gone in the blink of an eye.

Who's ready for a new era in Chicago?

Rather than maximizing a championship window that was viewed as closing quickly, Bowman has elected to take a long-term approach and it might not be the worst idea.

There's no doubt the loss of Hjalmarsson, who remains one of the most underrated blue liners in the league, and Panarin, who finished in the top-10 in scoring among forwards in both of his first two NHL seasons, will sting.

But there's a good chance the Blackhawks wouldn't have been able to reward them with the pay raises they deserve after their contracts expire following the 2018-19 season, and that certainly played a huge role in the decision to head in a new direction.

In reacquiring Saad, the Blackhawks finally give Jonathan Toews that reliable left-winger they've desperately lacked since Saad was shipped out of town in 2015, providing balance throughout the top-six. Saad is also locked up for the next four years at a $6 million cap hit that will look better as time goes by.

For the last two years, the Blackhawks were known as a one-line scoring team thanks to the chemistry developed between Patrick Kane and Panarin.

The second-half emergence of Nick Schmaltz and familiarity Kane has developed with center Artem Anisimov has allowed Panarin to become expendable in their quest to solve their top-line woes. And that's not a bad consolation line, especially when you consider top prospect Alex DeBrincat could also be in the cards as early as this season.

On the back end, the Blackhawks receive a 24-year-old defenseman in Connor Murphy, who's also signed for the next four years at a $3.85 million cap hit, and carries a right-handed shot, something they've needed more of in the organization. While there will certainly be growing pains under Joel Quenneville, Murphy's ceiling is fairly high and gives the Blackhawks some speed coming out of their own zone.

In making both of these deals, the Blackhawks got younger in their attempt to keep up with a league that relies more on speed, addressing a few areas that Nashville exposed during their first-round sweep of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

And while they may have sacrificed two key players in the short-term, the Blackhawks executed a plan that should keep the perceived championship window open longer than expected.

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

When the Blackhawks found Artemi Panarin, they found a talent who was NHL ready from the start, who found instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and earned a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. It was also a tremendous panacea for a team that couldn’t pull off a deal to keep Brandon Saad, who was the power forward that fit in beautifully in the Blackhawks’ top six.

On Friday, the Blackhawks brought Saad back and dealt Panarin to do it.   

Saad returns to the Blackhawks, who also acquire goaltender Anton Forsberg, in exchange for Panarin and Tyler Motte. The Blackhawks also get the Blue Jackets’ fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft and the Columbus gets Chicago’s sixth-round pick from this weekend’s draft. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the deal. The Blackhawks inherit Saad’s deal, which has four years remaining at a $6 million cap hit. Panarin was about to enter his current deal, which is two years with a $6 million cap hit. This is key for the immediate future; when Panarin’s latest deal is up, if he keeps up at his current pace, he’ll likely sign for a lot more.

[MORE: Blackhawks deal Hjalmarsson to Arizona]

The Blackhawks have missed Saad terribly since his departure. The team has struggled to find consistent line mates with Jonathan Toews, especially at that left-wing position. They did fairly well with Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik flanking Toews this season but it wasn’t as strong as the Saad-Toews combination. So it looks like the Blackhawks’ top line will be solidified again.

Now, what about the second line? As good as Toews and Saad’s chemistry was, Panarin’s and Kane’s was dynamite. The two had their respective skill, which they flashed often, and their ability to read each other was evident from the start. The Blackhawks’ second line was as consistent and steady the past two seasons as the top line was during Saad’s time here.

So, there are changes. The Blackhawks will absolutely miss what Panarin brings. But as far as bringing back a former Blackhawks player who could help in the present, getting the 24-year-old Saad back will be very beneficial.