Corey Crawford was “devastated” when general manager Stan Bowman told him Thursday the Blackhawks would not re-sign him.
Selected in the second round (No. 52 overall) in the 2003 NHL Draft, the 35-year-old goaltender is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and is third in wins in Blackhawks history.
“I was pretty devastated about not returning to Chicago,” Crawford said Saturday during a video conference call. “That’s all I’ve known my whole career. They just wanted to go a different way.”
Bowman said the Blackhawks are embracing letting younger players compete, and will have goaltenders Malcolm Subban — who re-signed Friday on a two-year, $1.7 million deal — and Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen compete for the No. 1 starting job next season.
“The message to Corey and to everyone is that we’ve decided we have some young goaltenders in Chicago we believe in, much like Corey [in 2010]. We have a couple young goalies in Lankinen and Delia who we haven’t given a real opportunity to. With where we’re headed, the NHL is relying more and more on young players. We’re going to embrace that moving forward.”
The Blackhawks had offered Crawford a one-year deal at $3.5 million, according to Mark Lazerus of The Athletic. Crawford mentioned the offer being around $3 million. They could’ve afforded to offer Crawford more if forward Zack Smith (back) was healthy, which would make him eligible for a buyout. It would’ve freed up around $2 million for next season.
“There just wasn’t that much negotiation,” Crawford said. “We thought there would be more talk. I think it was at $3 [million]. We didn’t really go back-and-forth at all, so it just kind of just ended there. There’s not much more I can say about that.
“I don’t think it was necessarily (the term). We just didn’t negotiate that much. That’s all it really was. I can’t really say much more about that. Let’s leave it there.”
Crawford said he talked with Bowman, then his family and his long-time teammates like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Andrew Shaw and others.
“For me, it was pretty heartfelt, pretty emotional after that, talking to some of the players and obviously my family and stuff,” Crawford said.
He highlighted Shaw as someone who talked about to him about what it’s like to be traded from Chicago. Shaw was dealt to the Canadiens for two 2016 second-round picks (Alex DeBrincat and Chad Krys) on June 24, 2016.
“I think everyone was pretty shocked,” Crawford said. “But we’ve had it happen before with Shaw and [Niklas] Hjalmarsson and some others throughout the years. I mean, that’s sports. I never really thought I was going to be a part of that, but here we are, so it’s time to move on.
“It’s obviously hard to move away and go somewhere else. I was kind of talking to Shawzsy about it. It was tough for him to leave. I finally understand what it feels like.”
Crawford wanted to played his entire career with the Blackhawks, but instead he became an unrestricted free agent and signed a two-year, $7.8 million deal ($3.6 million in year one and $4.2 million in year two) with the Devils. He said New Jersey was interested early on in signing him.
“It’s a team that has a ton of young skill,” Crawford said. “They’re up and coming, it’s a team I’m excited to be a part of. I want to help Jersey win hockey games and the goal is to win a championship.”