The Blackhawks started training camp Monday with five goaltenders on their roster, but only four participated.
Starting goalie Corey Crawford was ruled “unfit to play,” coach Jeremy Colliton said during his post-practice media interview via Zoom. Colliton did not provide a timeline for when Crawford could take the ice. The NHL is prohibiting teams from releasing medical information in Phases 3 (training camps) and 4 (resumption of play).
Crawford, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with Chicago in 2013 and 2015, was the lone NHL regular that did not participate in Phase 2 voluntary workouts with the Blackhawks. The 35-year-old, who had been healthy after missing 80 games the past two seasons because of concussions, was 16-20-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average, and among goalies to play at least 40 games this season, he was tied for fifth in the NHL with a .917 save percentage.
Crawford split time in net with Robin Lehner, but after the latter was traded to the Golden Knights on Feb. 24, he started the Blackhawks’ final eight games before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. He was 5-3 with a 2.65 GAA and .921 save percentage.
The Blackhawks’ plan in net, for now, is to have the other goaltenders compete for a spot. Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban manned the nets with the NHL regulars in the first group on Day 1 at Fifth Third Arena while Kevin Lankinen and Matt Tomkins were with the taxi squad players in the second group.
“It’s an opportunity, for now, for those other guys to compete,” Colliton said. “We’ll probably rotate those three guys: Subban, Delia and Lankinen to rotate them through the first group. It’s a great opportunity for them and a great opportunity for us to evaluate them. We expect a lot of competition and we have confidence in all of three of those guys that they’re going make it hard on us and play at a high level.”
Subban has the most NHL experience among the trio. He is 30-23-7 with a 2.97 GAA and .899 save percentage in 66 games (60 starts) with the Bruins, Golden Knights and Blackhawks. He was 9-7-3 with a 3.17 GAA and .890 save percentage this season, but did not face a shot in 70 seconds of relief for Chicago on March 3.
Delia is 7-5-3 with a 3.65 GAA and .906 save percentage in 18 NHL games (16 starts), all with the Blackhawks, but did not play in the NHL this season. Lankinen and Tomkins have both never played in the NHL.
“The way we’re handling this, we’re looking at the guys who are here and ready to play and when Corey’s in that group, then we can talk about Corey,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “The focus today was to get ourselves back going. We have four goaltenders here, and the goal is to be prepared when the time is right. We have some time, certainly. Our first game isn’t for several weeks.”
The Blackhawks’ 35-man roster (18 forwards, 12 defensemen, five goalies) will need to be trimmed to 31 players (28 skaters, three goalies) by July 26, when they travel to Edmonton for their best-of-five qualifier series against the Oilers. The series will begin Aug. 1. The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the loser and the other seven teams eliminated from the qualifiers will have an equal chance (12.5 percent) at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery on Aug. 10. The 2020 NHL Draft is set for Oct. 9 and 10.