The Blackhawks are making sure they’ve learned from history so as to not repeat it again this offseason. After failing to get Antti Niemi locked up to a restricted free agent deal last summer, GM Stan Bowman and the rest of the Chicago front office made sure they didn’t do the same thing this time around with Corey Crawford.
Chicago signed Crawford to a three year contract extension that will reportedly pay him $8 million total according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. That works out to a salary cap hit of $2.67 million over the next three seasons, a cap-friendly amount for the cap space limited Blackhawks. The annual cap hit works out to be $80,000 less than Niemi was awarded in arbitration over the summer, a deal that Chicago walked away from only to see Niemi sign with San Jose.
For Crawford, he’s being rewarded for a spectacular rookie season that saw him go 33-18-6 with a 2.21 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. While it’s just one year’s worth of results for Crawford, his play in the late stages of the regular season and the playoffs gave hope to all in Chicago that it’ll be the first of many years like that to come for the 26 year-old Quebec native.
While his contract is decently priced, the Blackhawks still have salary cap questions for next year. CapGeek.com has the Blackhawks committed to $53.6 million next season already for just 15 players. With the cap rumored to be going up to $62.2 million next season, that gives Chicago less than $9 million to get up to eight players signed up.
They’ll again be in the market for a backup goalie if Marty Turco doesn’t want to hang around. They’ll also have up to five restricted free agents to negotiate with as well. It’ll make for another interesting offseason in Chicago, but one they’ll likely feel a bit less stressed out compared to last year.
That said, getting good goaltending and not having to break the bank for it are great things and for Chicago, this is a great deal. We’re sure that the Washington Capitals who have restricted free agent Semyon Varlamov to deal with were paying close attention to how things went down here.
While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.
Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–Loui Eriksson
Matt Beleskey–David Krejci–David Pastrnak
Jimmy Hayes–Ryan Spooner–Brett Connolly
Chris Kelly–Joonas Kemppainen–Zac Rinaldo
The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.
So, where is Krejci’s game now?
Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.
So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?
On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.
So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?
“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks