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Elliotte Friedman Says That Lehner Clearly Likes Chicago, But The Hawks Have Big Decisions To Make

(SOURCE) 3)–Reminder that as of New Year’s Day Wednesday, players on one-year contracts are allowed to sign extensions. Two of the most interesting will be Ottawa’s Anthony Duclair (restricted) and Chicago’s Robin Lehner (unrestricted). I don’t get the sense there’s much yet on Duclair, who will have a heck of an arbitration case in the first All-Star season of his career. There’s time for both the organization and player to breathe, to see where this takes them.

4) As for Lehner, one of the stories to watch in early 2020 is the goalie market. There are good UFAs-to-be, whether you are looking for a starter or a backup. Where do the Blackhawks go with Corey Crawford and Lehner? The more important question might be where the Blackhawks go, period. They’ve got decisions to make on their franchise direction if there isn’t a game 83. Lehner clearly likes it there, and fit is important for him.

This was from Elliotte Friedman’s most recent 31 Thoughts blog. A weekly destination article for hockey fans. Probably the only one that I will actively search google for if I feel like I may have missed it. I’ve been reading this column for a long time. 31 Thoughts because there are 31 teams. Been reading since it was called 30 Thoughts, not to brag. And here is something I’ve noticed…the Blackhawks seem to get less ink than any other team in the league in this particular column. Is that just a bullshit observation on my part? Possibly. Is it also accurate…I would say yes. For being an original 6 team and all the success you would think that one of the NHL’s premier insders would talk about them more. He doesn’t. Unless….something gets leaked to him. That is how it appears to me. The Hawks leaked the Seabrook No-Trade Clause conversation to him last year to take the temperature of the fan base, maybe the league, and perhaps Seabrook…then had to back track and divert. Again, that is pure speculation on my part, but it feels pretty true.

Point being, when Friedman does include something about the Hawks I trust that it came from a high place, no matter the motivation. The goaltending situation is the number one thing to watch in the next six weeks leading up to the trade deadline because it is without a doubt their biggest asset now, but also their biggest question mark going forward. It feels as though Colliton(and by Colliton I mean Stan Bowman because it’s Bowman’s team at this point and there is no other way to explain the leash that Nylander has gotten) has decided that Lehner is the #1 goalie on this team. Both goalies have been spectacular this year and if they were on a good team, with competent defense, average forward depth, and coaching, they’d probably run away with the Jennings Trophy. Alas, that is not the case.

This is the case though:

crawford lehner cap

Two great goalies on expiring deals. AKA…an EXTREMELY valuable trade chip. Now, Corey Crawford has a full NMC. Lehner has no such restrictions. Both guys are technically eligible to sign extensions…no reported progress. Hmmm. If you look to the NHL standings there are two teams that DESPERATELY need to be in the playoffs and are in dire need of a goaltending upgrade. And it just so happens that they hate each other. Calgary and Edmonton. Crawford or Lehner would step in and be their #1 down the stretch. 100%. Koskinen has been okay for Edmonton, but he wears #19 and you can NOT trust a goalie with that number in a big spot. Calgary has all the talent they need. They were regular season champs of the West last year and got bounced. They need a real goalie. Talbot and Rittich ain’t it.

So then the question becomes what should the Hawks do? Can they send one of their goalies to Canada for a package including a 1st round pick? What would that signal to the rest of the team? You could argue that it signals nothing. If you trade one goalie the Hawks can simply lean more heavily on the other guy and continue pushing towards the playoffs(lulz).

Here is what I would do. Nothing…don’t trade either of them. If the Hawks plan on being a better/good team next year they’re going to need both of these guys again. The roster, by itself, isn’t close to being a contender. It’s just not. Signing Ian Mitchell, de Haan coming back healthy, Boqvist developing…they’re playing another inside straight on the blueline. It won’t be fixed and the depth up front isn’t good enough to make up the difference. They need the elite goaltending for the equation to work.

Call Lehner and Crawford in at the same time. Tell Lehner he’s the future of the position at 28 years old. Offer him 5 years and $40M. A nice hat tip to his jersey number, a significant pay bump, and probably fair market value. You tell Corey he can play here as long as he wants. You tell him if he signs that 50 will be hanging in the rafters one day. You tell him he’s a leader and one of the most important guys in the organization and he can make Chicago is home forever. Raise his kids here. He can sign for 3 years at $4M. I don’t think anyone else would give a 36 year-old a 3 year deal. You give him that extra year in exchange for the haircut he has to take to his salary. You tell him you love him. You tell him that he is smart. That he is kind. And that he is important. You call a press conference to announce they’re not fucking leaving. The end.