A few days ago, goaltending was way, way down on the list of concerns for the Blackhawks heading into their upcoming qualifier series against the Oilers.
Monday’s news sure took care of that.
On the opening day of training camp, goaltender Corey Crawford was ruled “unfit to play,” quickly changing one of the Blackhawks perceived strengths into, perhaps, its biggest question mark. With new regulations in place prohibiting teams from releasing medical information on players, coach Jeremy Colliton had little to say about Crawford’s long-term prognosis. But multiple reporters on the media call developed the sense Crawford may not be a roster option come August.
Crawford and former teammate Robin Lehner handled the Chicago net for all but 70 seconds of the 2019-20 regular season. Malcolm Subban, who was acquired in the Lehner trade, played 1:10 on March 3 against the Ducks while Crawford received medical attention.
If Corey Crawford can't go for Chicago it will be up to one of Subban / Delia / Lankinen to deal with this.... #blackhawks pic.twitter.com/vwkQWtL1cF— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) July 14, 2020
The Blackhawks long-term goaltending situation has been a mystery for a year, considering they have no NHL-level goalie under contract for next season. Now, the short-term future is even murkier, with the Blackhawks only proven option potentially unavailable. Here are the in-house options for replacing Crawford:
At 26 years old, Subban could have plenty of hockey remaining in his career. Before coming to Chicago, Subban spent three seasons as the backup in Vegas and his numbers have steadily declined during the last three seasons:
‘17-18: .910 save percentage, 2.68 goals-against average, -1.11 goals saved above average
‘18-19: .902 SV%, 2.93 GAA, -4.84 GSAA
‘19-20: .890 SV%, 3.10 GAA, -10.63 GSAA
One positive trend for Subban is he seems to play better when he sees consistent action, as Shepard Price detailed in late February. Should he become Chicago’s No. 1 goaltender, he could play five games in his first week on the job, which may work in Subban’s favor. But doubts are going to revolve around Subban until he proves himself at the NHL level.
Delia spent the entire ‘19-20 regular season in the AHL after making NHL appearances in the prior two seasons. At one point, he looked like the heir apparent to Crawford in net and is under contract through the ‘21-22 season. After some AHL struggles, though, Delia ended the season at the top of Rockford’s goalie trio with a 16-13-1 record, 2.66 GAA and .912 SV%. A few weeks before hockey was halted in early March, Delia sounded pleased with how he’d handled an up-and-down year of hockey.
Delia, also 26, had impressive outings during the ‘18-19 season, including a 46-save win over the Wild just after Christmas. Like Subban, though, Delia remains unproven as a No. 1 NHL goalie. Still, if the race for Crawford’s vacated spot atop the goaltending depth chart were being handicapped, Delia would likely be right behind Subban, if not at even odds.
Lankinen’s appearance during Phase 2 voluntary workouts were a welcome sign, considering he was expected to miss four-to-five months following surgery on his left shoulder in the first week of March. Splitting AHL net time with Delia, Lankinen posted an 8-10-2 record with a 3.03 GAA and .909 SV% in 21 games, including a career-high 55-save performance Dec. 10 to set Rockford’s AHL club record for most saves in a single game.
The highlight of Lankinen’s career thus far remains his time in net with Finland during the 2019 World Championship, where he posted a 7-1 record with a 1.50 GAA and .942 SV% en route to the gold medal. The 25-year-old is signed through 2022 but is yet to make his NHL debut.
Tomkins, a 2012 seventh-round pick (199th overall) by the Blackhawks, spent the last two seasons bouncing between the IceHogs and the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. The Ohio State graduate remained in the AHL for the entire ‘19-20 regular season as part of a three-man rotation with Delia and Lankinen. Tomkins, also 26, had a 5-7-1 record, 3.12 GAA and .896 SV%, playing well enough to earn a two-year NHL contract through 2021.
Tomkins is also yet to make his NHL debut and remains a significant longshot to change that factor in August.