Corey Crawford hasn’t held his end-of-year meeting with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman yet, and he said it might take more than one meeting to iron out his future.
But it’s clear Crawford’s heart remains in Chicago.
The Hawks’ longtime goalie, a pending unrestricted free agent, opened up Tuesday about his thought process entering the offseason.
“I would like to be back,” Crawford said. “We still have a lot of great pieces on this team. To win another [Stanley] Cup in Chicago would be unbelievable.”
At 35, with a history of concussions and coming off another turbulent season health-wise — he recovered from COVID-19 just in time to play in the August playoffs — Crawford said “short term may be better” for his next contract.
But he added he would consider a longer contract — “three or four years” — if that’s what the Hawks prefer.
Most important, he clarified that playing time will trump salary among his priorities.
“I don’t know where our cap is,” Crawford said. “We have a bunch of guys we need to sign. That’s something that we’ll discuss in our meetings with Stan. But definitely I’m leaning toward staying in Chicago.
“I don’t want to play half the games and sit on the bench for stretches at a time. My value is just not as good doing that. I’m way more valuable playing games and playing consistently. It really depends on how much I’m going to be used. Salary, that can be discussed. That’s something that is not as important at this time.”
Playing time was a source of tension during the eight months the Hawks employed Crawford and Robin Lehner.
Lehner complained after being traded to the Golden Knights in February about the Hawks’ unwillingness to let him take over the No. 1 job despite his excellent play. Crawford talked at length Tuesday about how much he, too, values playing “a ton.”
Hearing Crawford — who made $6 million annually on his expiring contract — values playing time above salary surely will be music to Bowman’s ears.
The Hawks’ salary-cap situation is tight, with little flexibility and a long list of free agents to try to re-sign — Crawford, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome, Drake Caggiula, Slater Koekkoek and backup goalie Malcolm Subban.
Tellingly, Crawford’s tone and usage of “we” indicated he still sees himself as part of the team. A lighthearted moment when one of his young sons barged into the Zoom interview highlighted another factor: With a growing family settled in Chicago, stability also matters.
Crawford said his first of potentially several meetings with Bowman is scheduled for this week. Crawford’s agent, Gilles Lupien, presumably will become involved at some point, too.
It won’t be a quick process, though. The official October start date of free agency remains unclear, and while that won’t affect Crawford if he re-signs with the Hawks (he could do so anytime), it will affect other Hawks moves that subsequently will affect Crawford.
“I don’t know how much is going to get done right away,” he said. “I assume things will happen closer to next season. So it’s going to be a waiting game.”
But the wait won’t change his desire to stay.
“We’ll see how those discussions go,” he said. “But staying in Chicago and trying to win again, that’s [priority] No. 1.”