Blackhawks’ goalie tandem is Crawford-Subban for now, but outlook is murky

Stan Bowman says the Blackhawks will have a “proven NHL goalie signed for next year,” but he’s noncommittal about who it’ll be, and the Hawks’ contract situation lends little insight.

SHARE Blackhawks’ goalie tandem is Crawford-Subban for now, but outlook is murky
Malcolm Subban came to Chicago as part of the Robin Lehner return, but he’s unlikely to be a long-term fixture with the Blackhawks.

Malcolm Subban came to Chicago as part of the Robin Lehner return, but he’s unlikely to be a long-term fixture with the Blackhawks.

Gerry Broome/AP

TAMPA, Florida — General manager Stan Bowman made it clear Tuesday, in the wake of the controversial Robin Lehner trade, that the Blackhawks will have a “proven NHL goalie signed for next year.”

But Bowman was noncommittal about who that proven goalie will be — or who his backup will be — and the Hawks’ contract situation offers little insight.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve mapped out who it’s going to be,” Bowman said Tuesday. “We have a lot of candidates, and we’ve got to make that choice between now and next season.”

“We have Kevin Lankinen, Collin Delia, [Malcolm] Subban and [Corey] Crawford, he’s not signed. But obviously Delia, Lankinen and Subban, their rights are controlled by the Blackhawks, so we decide what we want to do with them. But we just got Malcolm, so we’re going to have to sort through that and look at the options.”

Delia and Lankinen both have shown potential in the AHL, with Delia spending time with the Hawks in 2018-19 and Lankinen earning a quick call-up last fall.

But the Hawks are allowed just two more non-emergency call-ups this year (after spending two Monday to make Lucas Carlsson and Matthew Highmore eligible for the AHL playoffs) and probably won’t use them on goaltenders.

“They’ve both had tremendous seasons,” Bowman said Monday. “Kevin was an All-Star in the American League; great season for him. Collin, he started a little bit slower, but he’s been outstanding the last couple months, back to his level certainly from last year.”

Looking ahead, only Delia and minor-league goalie Matt Tompkins remain under contract next year. Lankinen and Subban are restricted free agents; Crawford is unrestricted.

The Hawks likely will ride with Crawford and Subban as the 1-2 tandem for the duration of this lost season, according to coach Jeremy Colliton. 

“Crow will have the ball and we’ll see what he does with it,” Colliton added. “It’s good to have Malcolm here, we’ll see him and he’ll get a chance to practice and we’ll go from there.”

Subban probably isn’t a part of the Hawks’ long-term plans right now; he may not even receive a qualifying offer this summer. But he does have five weeks to change his new team’s mind.

Interestingly, over three seasons with the Golden Knights, the 26-year-old goalie was far more effective with a heavy workload. In games where he faced 31 or more shots on goal, his save percentage was a solid .914; in games where he faced 30 or fewer, it plummeted to .882. 

That trait might make the defensively porous Hawks a better fit for him.

“I’m just going to keep working hard and wait for my opportunity, whatever opportunity I get,” he said Wednesday. “[I’ll] make the most of it.”

If Subban impresses, he could earn a backup role next year. If he doesn’t, Delia and Lankinen presumably will fight it out. 

Either way, though, all eyes will be on the starting job, which may or may not be Crawford’s to keep. Bowman deliberately mentioned Crawford’s UFA status Tuesday, and also admitted Crawford’s concussion history is “a factor,” albeit not a big one.


Corey Crawford is the Blackhawks’ undisputed starter for the rest of the season now that Lehner is gone.


If the Hawks let Crawford walk and enter 2020-21 with a completely different duo than the Crawford-Lehner pair of 2019-20, it would certainly send shockwaves through the NHL. 

And Bowman would have many options in this summer’s UFA goalie market: Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Anton Khudobin, Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss, Mike Smith and even old friend Lehner.

Yet, as with seemingly everything else in the Hawks’ goalie realm, there’s no slam-dunk choice.

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