Corey Crawford re-signs with Hawks
The deal is worth about $8 million, according to a source familiar with the situation. Crawford gets $3.25 million in the first year, $2.25 million in the second and $2.5 million in the final year, a source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.
"I really wanted to be part of the Blackhawks," Crawford said in a conference call with media. "I think management there and everyone wanted me back too. It"s great to get it done early. Now I can just focus on workouts and getting prepared for next season."
Crawford, 26, led rookie goaltenders with 33 wins (33-18-6), and ranked eighth in the NHL with a 2.30 GAA last season. He also led all rookies with a .927 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA in seven playoff games.
After the Blackhawks' season ended with a loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of their first-round NHL playoff series, general manager Stan Bowman said re-signing Crawford would be a "top priority."
"Our top priority was getting Corey signed," Bowman said. "Now that we've done that we're going to move on to some of our other business at hand. We have a number of players whose contracts are finished. We'll work on them concurrently. That's the next thing on tap here."
With Crawford signed the Hawks are left with 10 players who will become free agents on July 1.
Crawford made $850,000 this season, taking over as the No. 1 goaltender early in the season, when veteran Marty Turco faltered. Crawford became the second Blackhawks goaltender to reach the 30-win plateau since 1994. He's happy with his first multiyear, multimillion-dollar NHL contract.
"I think for now that's more than fine," Crawford said. "I"m so excited to get back there and start next season. I'm really happy with three years. That's pretty long too."
"I think for us, it was pretty clear as the year went on and Corey emerged as our go-to guy, that he earned the right to be our No. 1 goalie," Bowman said on a conference call. "That's the way you always want it. You don't want to anoint people. You want to let them do the work for you, and I think if you watched the way Corey played -- he didn't play a lot in the beginning and once he was given the opportunity, he earned more time in the net. And he ended up being a very important part of our team."
As for Turco? Bowman said he still wants to play.
Asked if there was any scenario where he could see the veteran re-signing or if Turco had told him he wants to start somewhere, Bowman said: "We didn't get into that with Marty. We just kind of went over the year, and he was a great Blackhawk for us this year."
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, can turn their attention toward other areas such as trying to retain other restricted free agents such as Troy Brouwer, Chris Campoli, Michael Frolik, Jake Dowell and Viktor Stalberg.
Salary-cap issues last summer forced them to jettison 10 players who played roles in their championship, and it took a while for the team to mesh.
A slow start was one reason the Blackhawks ended up just making the playoffs on the final day, when Minnesota's win over Dallas gave Chicago the eighth seed.
Bowman said they'll be in a better situation, cap-wise, this summer.
"We've got a good idea of where the cap will be," he said. "We're still going to make some changes like I indicated before -- not wholesale changes. But we need to have some new faces in the lineup. We need to give the opportunity for young players to also get into the lineup. There's a few different ways it can go. I'm confident that when we get going next October that we'll have a very strong team."
Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.