The Chicago Blackhawks extended goaltender Corey Crawford on Saturday, inking the starter from last season’s Stanley Cup-winning team to a six-year, $6.0 million per season contract.
That’s a lot of money
Contract extension for Corey Crawford: 6 year / $36M #blackhawks
— Renaud Lavoie (@LavoieRenaud) September 2, 2013
There’s no question about it – the Blackhawks paid full price for Crawford, a player who generally isn’t seen as a top-tier NHL starter. In 2011-12, the duo of Crawford and Ray Emery struggled mightily in the Chicago net, and were seen as a critical weakness in an otherwise excellent team. Last year, Crawford turned that around and delivered strong results over a lockout-shortened season and then en route to a Stanley Cup win.
Could this decision have anything to do with the Blackhawks choice to let Antti Niemi walk away after the team won the Stanley Cup in 2010? At the time, the consensus seemed to be that Niemi had put in an averagish season and won the Cup behind a powerhouse, but since then Niemi has evolved into an exceptional goalie.
Even so, it’s hard not to be a little staggered by the dollars and term here. Crawford has a career 0.913 save percentage, with the vast majority of those games coming in the last three seasons, and that total ranks 28th of the 54 active goalies to record at least 1,000 saves over that span. Even eliminating the backups ahead of him (players like Jhonas Enroth and Jason LaBarbera), Crawford’s save percentage puts him in the bottom-third of NHL starters.
What About Devan?
It’s a deal that must have pending unrestricted free agent Devan Dubnyk smiling, because there are definite similarities between Dubnyk and Crawford.
Both are on roughly the same career track. Dubnyk was selected in the first round of the 2004 Draft and Crawford went in the second round in 2003. After minor-league apprenticeships that included a smattering of NHL games (19 for Dubnyk in 2009-10, eight for Crawford over three seasons) both surpassed veteran incumbents to take the starting job in 2010-11. Both now find themselves hovering around the 150-game mark on their careers after three seasons with some ups and downs.
What about the performance gap? Both are career 0.913 save percentage goalies, and over the last three seasons (when both have been starters) there isn’t that much space between them. Dubnyk has a 0.917 save percentage over that span to Crawford’s 0.913, and at even-strength Dubnyk has a 0.923 save percentage to Crawford’s 0.922. The four point even-strength save percentage gap over that span is the difference between a middle-third and bottom-third starter, but given that we’re talking about four goals over 1,000 shots its only fair to recognize that the gap isn’t all that large.
But then, Crawford isn’t being paid like a guy who has been a bottom-third NHL starter over the last three seasons. He now ranks seventh among goalies in cap hit – he’s being paid because he’s a Stanley Cup-winning goalie. Maybe that’s a bad way to decide to pay goalies (I think it is) but it is what is happening and it isn’t something that Dubnyk can claim.
Even so, it does seem clear that the brief era of goalies being seen as a place to save money against the cap is now over, and that’s unfortunate for the Oilers given their need to sign either Dubnyk or a new starter next summer.
Completely off-topic is this message from the Canadian Cancer Society. This September, they’re spreading awareness of testicular cancer through "Nutiquette" and naturally we thought we’d help them with that. Watch the movie, it’s funny.
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