Corey Crawford took indefinite leave from the New Jersey Devils for personal reasons.
Coach Lindy Ruff said he spoke to Crawford’s side after a scrum on Friday.
“Approaching me just took some of the guesswork out of me,” Ruff said. “The players were wondering, so the guesswork is gone and he’s obviously on leave for personal reasons, and that’s all we have for now. ”
Questions about Crawford’s future have been raised by teammates.
“I hope he is well”, goalkeeper Mackenzie Blackwood said. “I hope whatever he has to do to feel good or be happy that he gets it and we all support him. ”
Forward Rabbit Travis expressed concern for Crawford on Thursday, the day before the break was announced.
“We have to give it its space,” Zajac said. “Obviously nobody knows himself better than him, so obviously we want him to be a part of this team, but I think in the future he has to make that decision. I think he can take all the time he needs. We want him here. ”
Crawford signed a two-year contract on October 9, a day after New Jersey put goaltender Cory Schneider on unconditional waiver for the purpose of a buyout. Schneider signed a contract with the New York Islanders on December 31.
Crawford joined the Devils after 13 seasons and two Stanley Cup championships (2013, 2015) with the Chicago Blackhawks, but has only played more than 40 games in the previous two seasons due to concussions.
Devils forward Kyle Palmieri said he spoke to Crawford this week.
“I contacted him; I think it was Sunday or Monday, ”Palmieri said Thursday. “You want to give him his space… it’s a personal matter for him and his family, what they go through. We have learned to know [Corey] quite a bit in the first couple of days. I think you’re there to support him as a teammate and as a guy who obviously I have a lot of respect for what he’s done in his career.
“But I’m sure [Zajac] kinda said in the same way. It’s a personal issue for him and we’ll be there to support them no matter what over the next few days. ”
Crawford was 16-20-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and 40-game shutout (39 starts) with the Blackhawks last season, and 4-5 with a 3.31 GA average and .907 save percentage in nine Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Ruff said that after Blackwood and Crawford, Scott Wedgewood is likely to be the next best goalie on the depths chart.
Wedgewood, who signed a one-year two-way contract with the Devils on Oct. 11 after serving as the third goaltender for Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, is 7-10-5 with a GAA of 3 .05 and a save percentage of 0.903. in 24 NHL games with the Devils (2015-16) and Arizona Coyotes (2017-18). NHL teams must have three goalies on the roster this season.
“Wedgewood had a really good camp,” said Ruff. “I think he was above the other guys (Gilles Senn and Evan Cormier) in the camp were at. Scrimmagewise, he’s been very good and seems to have his game in a really good place. [Senn and Cormier] have worked hard, but if the question is, “Who’s a cut above?” Wedgewood has experience in the NHL and for me he played a couple of very impressive scrums. ”
Ruff said it was also possible for New Jersey to add a more experienced goalie.
“This is something we talked about… you know, is there a better way, is there a better guy?” Ruff said. “I think we do this with every post, regardless of who’s away. We are talking about adding a [defenseman], add a striker, add a goalie… you are always trying to improve your team. ”
Photo courtoisie: Andrew Maclean / New Jersey Devils