The Blackhawks surprised everyone by signing Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner to a one-year, $5 million contract on Monday.
July 1st, a day Chicago Blackhawks fans had been waiting a long time for. With an estimated $8 million in cap space heading into Monday, there was a lot of speculation over who the Blackhawks would target. Big-name players like Joe Pavelski and Anders Lee were available, but Stan Bowman decided to go in another direction. He decided to address the Blackhawks’ weaknesses from the past couple of seasons.
While it would have been nice to add to the already-potent offense by signing a 30-goal scorer, the Blackhawks needed to address their bottom-six forwards.
They did just that by signing former Vegas Golden Knights center Ryan Carpenter. Carpenter, 28, agreed to a three-year, $3 million contract and is expected to play a big part in fixing the Blackhawks penalty kill. The 6-foot, 200-pound center is dependable in the faceoff department with a 50.6 FOW% for his career. When Jonathan Toews wasn’t on the ice, the Blackhawks won just 40.9% of their faceoffs while shorthanded. That needed to change, and Stan Bowman found a potential solution in Carpenter.
Carpenter may not provide much offense (had a career-high 18 points last season), but he can drive possession in his team’s favor. Carpenter posted a 58.1 CF% (Corsi For) and a 56.8 FF% (Fenwick For) last season, which is rare to see from a bottom-six player. He doesn’t have much to show for it on the stat sheet, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Expect Ryan Carpenter to begin the season as the third-line center for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks also addressed their center depth by re-signing David Kampf to a two-year, $2 million deal. Kampf has played 109 games for the Blackhawks the last two seasons, mostly in a fourth-line role. The Czech forward had a solid rookie campaign (53.0 FOW%, 51.6 CF%, 52.0 FF%) but regressed a bit in 2018-19. Kampf won just 45.3% of his faceoffs and had sub-par possession numbers. Still, he’s only 24 and has a team-friendly contract for the next two years. The Blackhawks are hoping David Kampf can solidify the fourth line and penalty kill in 2019-20.
The Blackhawks’ biggest splash of free agency was signing goaltender Robin Lehner to a one-year, $5 million contract. With Corey Crawford still on the books for $6 million this season, the move came as a surprise to everyone. What does this mean for Crawford’s future? Both he and Lehner will be UFA’s at the end of the season.
Robin Lehner is coming off a terrific season for the New York Islanders. He recorded the third-best goals against average (2.13 GAA) and the second-highest save percentage (.930 Sv%) in the NHL. Lehner and backup goaltender Thomas Greiss won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league. The 6-foot-4 netminder also took home the Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL player that best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.
With Corey Crawford missing significant time in each of the last two seasons, the Blackhawks needed an insurance policy. They couldn’t afford to let another season fall apart due to a goaltending injury.
The Blackhawks now possess one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL. It may be tough to give either goaltender the number of starts they deserve, but that seems like more of a luxury than a problem. Corey Crawford is going to turn 35 this season, and limiting his starts could be in the team’s best interest. Especially with a Vezina Trophy finalist behind him. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming season plays out with two number-one goalies on the Blackhawks roster.
The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t add the big-name player some fans expected, but they became better overall. Stan Bowman addressed the lack of center depth while also helping out the penalty kill. Ryan Carpenter is a strong defensive presence for the bottom six, and the ‘Hawks are hopeful David Kampf takes another step in his second full NHL season.
Robin Lehner gives the Blackhawks one of the best, if not the best goaltending duo in the entire league. $11 million seems like a lot tied up to goaltending, but it certainly is an area of strength. The case wouldn’t be the same with Collin Delia serving as Crawford’s backup. What does this mean for Corey Crawford’s future? That’s a question that possibly no one has an answer to, including Stan Bowman himself.
Without a doubt, the Chicago Blackhawks are in a WAY better spot than they were just a few months ago.
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