Blackhawks trying to sign Corey Crawford to long-term deal

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The Blackhawks running with a hot rookie goaltender down the stretch isn’t anything new for hockey fans. Last year, it was Antti Niemi who snatched the starting job from Cristobal Huet mid-season and led them all the way to the Cup. The Blackhawks are hoping to catch the same kind of lightning from Corey Crawford in this year’s playoffs. The difference, however, is that the Blackhawks may have learned their lesson last year and are trying to lock-up the rookie netminder before a good playoff performance could price him out of town. They’ve seen it before. They probably don’t want to see it again (the goaltender leaving thing, not the Cup thing).

The 26-year-old pending restricted free agent is currently bringing in $800,000. Needless to say, his stellar season has him in line for a raise. Stan Bowman sat down with Chris Boden of CSNChicago.com to discuss the Blackhawks’ plans with Crawford.

“We’ve reached out and we’re gonna try to do something here. The timing is delicate and you don’t want it to become a distraction but we certainly have an interest in trying to get something done. I think he’s performed very well for us this year. Looking back from where he’s come – not only having a foothold in the NHL at the beginning, when he started a handful of games, but watching his progression as he’s gotten more responsibility, he’s risen to the challenge. That’s what you look for in goaltenders. When they get the increased workload, can they handle it? He’s kind of unflappable and doesn’t get rattled by much. I think that’s a strength of his. He’s obviously talented. He’s got the physical capabilities, but the mental side is important as well, and he’s been rock-solid for us.”

To say the time is delicate is like saying the sun is kind of hot. The Blackhawks have been one of the hottest teams in the competitive Western Conference; but they’ll need to continue their hot play down the stretch if they want to get to the playoffs to defend last June’s Stanley Cup. Going into the night, they were tied with the Kings and Predators for the 5th seed in the West—but they were also only two points ahead of the Dallas Stars who are currently in 9th place. More importantly, they’re two points into a playoff spot.

Over the course of the season, Crawford is rocking a 29-14-5 record with a .918 save percentage and a sparkling 2.28 goals against average. But the reason the timing is so interesting is that Crawford has been playing so well over the last stretch of games. In his last 15 games, he’s 11-2-2 with a pair of shutouts. But when the focus is narrowed to the last 7 games, he’s only 3-2-2 and has been pulled twice. With Bowman speaking out that they’re negotiating a contract, it’s only natural to wonder if that’s had to do anything with the recent slip in his play. Shutouts like the one he had last night against Florida will certainly quiet the questions though.

Bowman and the Blackhawks looking to lock-up a young player shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. They already have six players under contract until the end of the 2014-2015 season. They have eight players signed up through the end of the 2014 season if you include Dave Bolland and Nicklas Hjalmarsson’s contracts. Marty Turco’s contract comes off the books at the end of the season so some of the goaltender money can go to the guy they’re depending on to win games.

This offseason the Blackhawks will have to make decisions on Tomas Kopecky, Troy Brouwer, and Jordan Hendry. In addition, newcomers Michael Frolik, Chris Campoli, and Viktor Stalberg are all restricted free agents at the end of the season. But for now, it looks like Stan Bowman has chosen his top priority. Once he gets the net situation figured out for the future, he’ll be able to work on the rest of the team.

McDavid disappointed at NHL decision to skip Olympics

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TORONTO (AP) Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said he’s disappointed the NHL won’t be sending players to the Winter Olympic in South Korea.

“It would have been a special group, and you’re just hopeful to be a part of it,” McDavid told reporters at a charity event Wednesday. “It’s disappointing, but that’s the way it is. You want to be able to represent your country on the highest stage, and the Olympics is obviously the highest stage possible.”

McDavid’s comments came a day after Hockey Canada announced it was looking for non-NHL talent for Canada’s roster in Pyeongchang.

Sean Burke, the team’s GM, said Tuesday the bulk of Canada’s team will come from players based in Europe.

The NHL’s reasons not to participate in the upcoming Games include disagreements over costs as well as problems accommodating the Games during its regular season.

When asked whether there was the possibility of getting permission from the Oilers to attend the Olympics, McDavid was non-committal.

“I’m not too involved in all that stuff,” he said.

The NHL Players Association has said the league’s decision is “short-sighted.”

The NHL allowed its players to compete in every Olympics since 1998 Nagano Games, and Canada was won three of the last four gold medals.

Markov, Habs officially part ways

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Andrei Markov‘s run of 17 consecutive seasons in Montreal is over.

On Thursday, the Habs announced that Markov — who’s played all 990 of his career NHL contests with the Canadiens — wouldn’t be brought back for the 2017-18 campaign.

The news comes after months of rumblings about Markov’s contractual status. It was initially believed the 38-year-old UFA was looking for $12 million over two years, and there was a brief flirtation with the Flyers (which, it later turned out, was simply Markov’s interest in going to Philly, not the Flyers actively pursuing him).

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin stated on several occasions he wanted to bring Markov back, but only at the right price and term. That’s because Bergevin knew Markov still played an important role — despite appearing in just 62 games last year, the Russian rearguard was offensively productive, with six goals and 36 points, and averaged nearly 22 minutes per night.

That said, Bergevin also knew the financial realities. He dished out big bucks this offseason — a combined $154.8 million for Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk and Karl Alzner — and just didn’t have the money left to give Markov a big ticket.

Instead, Bergevin played it conservative in rounding out his defense, which included Tuesday’s one-year, $700,000 deal for Mark Streit. Some saw that deal as the writing on the wall for Markov in Montreal.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see where Markov ends up. If he lowers his asking price, there’s no doubt an NHL team would be interested. If he doesn’t, he could angle for a KHL deal and the opportunity to represent Russia in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Malkin wants to see Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup

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Evgeni Malkin‘s career is far from over, but he’s already accomplished so much.

The 30-year-old has won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies and a Calder Trophy.

Fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin has also won a number of individual awards, but he hasn’t been as fortunate when it comes team awards and playoff success.

There always seemed to be a rivalry between the two Russian forwards, but that doesn’t mean Malkin isn’t rooting for Ovechkin to take home a championship before his career is over.

“I was a bit luckier than (Ovechkin), that’s why I won those cups,” Malkin said, per Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko. “He has everything ahead of him. I wish him to win the cup.”

How do Penguins fans feel about that?

Malkin was also one of the more controversial omissions on the NHL’s “Top 100 Players” list. The Pens forward was disappointed about being left off the list, but hoisting Lord Stanley again seems to have erased that sting.

“I was a little bit disappointed when I wasn’t included in the list of 100 greatest players,” added Malkin. “But I won the cup and am happy.”

PHT Morning Skate: 9 rookies that could win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18

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–This year’s offseason is a lot more quiet than last year’s offseason (P.K. Subban for Shea Weber and Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson were two major stories last summer). So Sean McIndoe dug up seven storylines that still need sorting out. Somehow, the Avs have failed to trade Matt Duchene, John Tavares hasn’t signed an extension with the Islanders, and the Golden Knights still have a lot of defensemen. (Sportsnet)

–Sam McCaig of The Hockey News put together his free agent All-Star team, and there were some pretty big names to chose from. Mike Fisher, Jaromir Jagr and Thomas Vanek were all on McCaig’s first line, while Andrei Markov and Fedor Tyutin were on the top pairing. (The Hockey News)

–The San Jose Sharks lost Patrick Marleau to the Maple Leafs this offseason which means that they’ll need to replace his production. Don’t be surprised if players like Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen and Tomas Hertl are asked to do more in 2017-18. (NHL.com)

–Devils rookie Nico Hischier has to be considered one of the front runners to win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18, so NJ.com came up with a list of eight other players that will push him for that crown. Fellow 2017 draft pick Nolan Patrick could be a legitimate contender for top rookie too, but so can Coyote prospects Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome. (NJ.com)

–The person running the Golden Knights’ Twitter account has been incredibly funny throughout the summer, and that didn’t stop yesterday. The account took a nice little jab at some Canadian friends:

–Here are some interesting numbers from last season regarding scoring by defensemen. Obviously, Brent Burns played a big part in San Jose being at the top of list: