Blackhawks leaving Corey Crawford, Brandon Saad signals clear youth movement

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In just over 48 hours, the Blackhawks parted ways with franchise goalie Corey Crawford and traded two-time Stanley Cup forward Brandon Saad for the second time in five years.The decision to leave Crawford was certainly surprising, but not nearly as surprising as the organization’s unwillingness to replace its services with an experienced goalkeeper. The Blackhawks have pledged to give Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban a chance to compete for the starting and relief positions in 2020-21 in a team that has given up the most scoring chances in the past two seasons. .

The decision to trade Saad wasn’t nearly as surprising, but Colorado’s return was. The Blackhawks opened a cap of $ 1.8 million by swapping Saad’s $ 6 million contract – Chicago kept $ 1 million – for defenseman Nikita Zadorov’s $ 3.2 million contract, but c is pretty much it. Dennis Gilbert and Anton Lindholm were involved in the four-game deal in an AHL defenseman trade, respectively.

If the Blackhawks had committed to being a playoff team next season, they would have used that extra money to bring Crawford back. But a decision had already been made to get young in goal and it looks like it doesn’t end there.

The Blackhawks have avoided using the word “rebuild” in recent years and have often replaced it with “retooling” on the fly. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Blackhawks could be leaning more toward the former, and general manager Stan Bowman indicated on Thursday.

“Now that we have made this decision [on Crawford], the way we’re going to move forward, there’s going to be a lot more stuff we’ll talk about over the next few days, weeks, as we get into the offseason and plan for the squad for next year, ”Bowman said. a lot of time talking about the right direction for us to move forward, and I think, not just in our squad, but you’re going to see a lot of different things in the NHL this offseason, compared to other years.

“There is a league wide impact and there is, maybe not all teams, but a lot of teams are focused on finding young players who can take the next step and play a game. bigger role. This is really the direction in which we are. directed more than it was nothing else. ”

The Blackhawks have had “more philosophical than tactical discussions” in recent weeks, according to Bowman. The youth movement started last season when Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach became full-time NHL players. It will continue this season with Ian Mitchell being part of the mix and a three-player goaltending competition with a total of 76 NHL starts.

Use whatever word you want to call that direction, but it’s obvious the Blackhawks think there’s a need to take another step back to continue growing their young players before they take the next step again.

“We’re not trying to do anything other than grow up with young players, give them an opportunity,” Bowman said. “We’re not going to have a whole squad of young players. It is unrealistic. I don’t know that’s a formula that anyone uses or that we’re saying here. What we’re trying to say is you have to have the opportunity for young players to come into the league and play a role and grow because that’s where you’re going to see progress. This is how your team is going to evolve into an elite team, and this is what we strive to be.

“The steps you can take to get there would be to give the opportunity and then help those players to become bigger roles. … We think we have a lot of good young players, pieces here that will play a huge role, but we want to incorporate more in the future. We believe this is the way to lead our team and push ourselves to the next level. “

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