Before homecoming in Montreal, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford outlines thought process about next contract
Crawford will be a free agent this summer but plans to sign a new contract, whether in Chicago or elsewhere.
KANATA, Ontario — Goalie Corey Crawford is expected to start for the Blackhawks on Wednesday in his hometown of Montreal in front of an always-large crowd of ‘‘cousins, aunts, uncles’’ and beyond.
It would be Crawford’s eighth career start at the Bell Centre, and the first seven have gone exceedingly well. He’s 5-0-2, including five consecutive victories, with an absurd .971 save percentage and two shutouts, including a 48-save gem last March.
And he knows it, too.
‘‘I’ve always played well there, and we’ve gotten some pretty big wins there,’’ Crawford said Tuesday. ‘‘I remember that. I just don’t really pay attention to that stuff because you can struggle for 10 or five years against a team, and then it can completely turn around. I try not to jinx myself too much.’’
Coach Jeremy Colliton had an easy decision with his goalies for this back-to-back. Robin Lehner started Tuesday against his former Senators team, and Crawford presumably will start Wednesday for his homecoming.
But the pattern often hasn’t been so simple, and Colliton has favored Lehner lately. Other than the three home games Lehner missed because of injury last week, Crawford — assuming he starts Wednesday — will have started only two of the last 10 games in which both goalies were available.
With both players’ contracts expiring after this season, the Hawks will have a decision to make.
Lehner revealed his expectations for his next contract last week. He said he’d like to stay with the Hawks but, more important, wants a long-term contract that will reward his consistently elite stats. He might be in line for four or more years with an annual cap hit above his current $5 million.
Crawford, meanwhile, likely will ask for — and end up with — fewer years and significantly less money than the six-year, $6 million-per-year contract he’s finishing now, simply because of his age (35).
But he said Tuesday that he plans to pursue a new contract rather than retire and that he’s not particularly interested in signing into a clear backup situation.
‘‘I’m a pretty competitive guy,’’ he said. ‘‘[I] feel like I could still make a difference on a team, to make a run at a championship. That’s where my head’s at. Never really had a role of sitting on the bench and being part of that situation.’’
He and agent Gilles Lupien have yet to talk with Hawks general manager Stan Bowman, he said.
Those comments throw cold water on the idea that Crawford would take a discount to stay with the Hawks and maintain the duo with Lehner.
And there will be a market for Crawford around the league. His legacy of two Stanley Cup titles is set in stone, and his .906 save percentage in 23 games this season remains right around the league average of .909, according to Hockey Reference.
Still, after spending his entire career in the Hawks’ organization, Crawford did express a desire to stay.
‘‘I would still love to have a chance here to win another Cup,’’ he said. ‘‘We have a really good young group of players, and guys get to the next level pretty quick, I find. Once you get over that learning curve, I think we could be competitive quickly.’’
He will explore free agency more as winter turns into spring and summer. For now, Crawford is just focused on his once-a-year moment in Montreal.
‘‘It’s a game that I enjoy,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s pretty special anytime I go there.’’