Where do the Hawks go if Crawford struggles?
If the Blackhawks have another early playoff exit and Crawford doesn't have a stand out year worthy of Vezina nomination, maybe the Hawks should be creative with one of their amnesties. Since teams won’t be able to use them until after this season, and Olesz will be off the books by then the Haw
I'm not convinced that Crawford is the answer long term for the Blackhawks and we know the future isn't in Emery. To me Crawford's Blackhawk career comes down to this season and if he doesn't step up, I would seriously look at replacing him. We have a few guys in the minors and draft picks but they are a few years away and I don’t think they are ready to carry the Hawks. (I don't think Luoooo is going to be a Hawk, nothing personal, I think he would probably be a pretty solid goalie for us but I just don't see it happening but good luck to whichever team ends up with him, it will be entertaining if he succeeds or fails.)
After Olesz's bad money coming off the books at the end of this season, the Blackhawks don't have too many bad contracts outside Hossa, and I think his play is too valuable to lose over the next two years. Corey Crawford makes $2.6 mil until 2014. Emery's contract is up after this shortened season. So why not use an amnesty on Crawford, go out and sign a UFA goalie for 2013.
There are three guys to me that would be a moderate to legitimate upgrades over Crawford:
1. Niklas Backstrom, he currently makes $6 mil in Minnesota and has new friends to play with in Parise and Suter, he is also a pretty expensive goalie when the Wild have Kuemper in the system and their back-up Harding is signed through 2015. Backstrom may be an expensive piece to keep. Especially, with the cap rolling back after this year to $64.3 mil. However the Hawks may be able to sign him when you look at what you will free up when you lose Crawford, Emery and Olesz, there is plenty of money to sign Backstrom even with a moderate raise.
2. Jimmy Howard from the SCUM, this one is not a significant upgrade of talent in my opinion but he is cheaper than Crawford and he is an upgrade. In the last two years Howard has played in 57 games in 2012 and 63 games in 2011. Howard gave up 2.13 GAA and 2.79 in those same years. Coincidentally, Crawford played 57 games in 2012 and the same 57 games in 2011. Crawford had a 2.77 GAA and 2.3. Crawford's save percentage in those same years was .903 and .917. Howard's .920 and .908. So pretty similar. They are also the same age. This change may help the Hawks and hurt a divisional rival, so it might have even more benefit for the Hawks.
3. Mike Smith, this one is probably going to be the most controversial especially with his recent history with the Hawks. But the guy has shown he can play. Yeah, he has shown he can act as well, with the Shaw incident but he stood on his head during those games and I don't think Phoenix would of won that series had the teams swapped goalies. He is only making $2 million in Phoenix and I think would solidify our back end right now. He is 30 but would be a definite improvement for a few years until one of the young guys steps up.
We are burning through the glory years of guys like Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Sharp and Hossa. The Blackhawks need to make a move if they want to have a chance at another Cup during their best chance at becoming a dynasty. There are only a few holes on this team holding it back from achieving greatness and hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup again. But management needs to own up to those holes and fix them, if Crawford struggles this season it’s time to admit that he isn't the answer in between the pipes for a really good team.