Blackhawks sign Corey Crawford to six-year extension

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He’s got the Stanley Cup. He’s got the faith of the fans who’ve always questioned him, and the respect of his countrymen who’ve always passed over him. Heck, he’s even got the girl.

Now, Corey Crawford’s got the big deal.

Crawford capped an unforgettable three-month stretch — during which he backstopped the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup, was invited to Team Canada’s Olympic camp for the first time, and got engaged — with a six-year contract extension worth a reported $36 million. The deal was announced Monday, the day he brought the Cup home to Montreal, no less.

“It’s a big high right now, hopefully I don’t come down from it,” said the 28-year-old Crawford, who is now signed through the 2019-20 season. “It’s been amazing. The last couple months have been great.”

Crawford’s deal will make him the seventh highest-paid goalie in the league. Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask got an eight-year, $56-million deal this summer, while Phoenix’s Mike Smith got six years, $34 million, so the Hawks certainly got fair market value for the last goalie standing in the 2013 season.

But given how general manager Stan Bowman let Antti Niemi walk after he won the 2010 Stanley Cup, Crawford’s big deal seemed a bit out of character for the Hawks. But Bowman reiterated on Monday that one of the big reasons the Hawks let Niemi leave for San Jose was Crawford’s presence in the system. Also, Crawford’s salary cap hit will only be $2.67 for this coming season, the last of his previous deal, and the cap is expected to rise significantly in the next couple of years, with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane due for monster extensions before their deals run out following the 2014-15 season.

“The salary cap is something we certainly have to plan for and think about as an organization, but I don’t think that’s the focus right now,” Bowman said. “The reality is we need to have a top-notch goaltender in our organization, and we have one in our house here with Corey. He’s grown up with our organization and he’s [achieved] the ultimate [goal] with our group. There was never a question in our minds that we wanted to commit to him. … We’ll figure [future deals] out as time goes on. A lot changes year to year. We don’t have all the knowledge of where the cap will be in two years or three years. The one thing we do know is we’re going to have a great goaltender. That’s why this was an easy decision.”

After a terrific rookie campaign, Crawford took a step back as a second-year pro and entered last season as a major question mark following a first-round loss to the Coyotes. He spoke during training camp about how his postseason failures were motivating him, and he subsequently went 19-5-5 with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage during the Hawks’ remarkable 2013 season, teaming with backup Ray Emery to win the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league. He then went 16-7 with a 1.84 GAA and .932 save percentage in the playoffs, narrowly losing the Conn Smythe Trophy to Kane. As if that weren’t enough to endear him to Chicago fans, his memorable profanity-laced speech at the Hawks’ Grant Park rally gave him cult status for life.

“I want to be in Chicago for my whole career,” Crawford said Monday. “This is amazing to be able to do this and get this deal done.”

Now that he’s got it all — including real job security for the first time in his career — Crawford’s eager to go back to work.

“I don’t think it changes at all,” Crawford said. “Every year, the goal is to win. …  It was fun to win last year and have a fun summer with it, and have my Cup day today and do all that. But at one point you’re just going to have to shut it off and start all over again.”

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