Thursday, May 2, 2024

How Will Blackhawks Improve Their Goaltending Next Season?


The Blackhawks had plenty of issues as a team this season, but perhaps the biggest was the amount of goals they let in the net. Chicago allowed 3.52 goals per gam over the course of the year, good for fourth-most in the league. On the other hand, Blackhawks goalies battled for a save percentage of .897, with seven teams posting worse numbers. It was made obvious this year that the large amount of pucks let in the net wasn’t entirely the fault of the netminders, but instead a result of inexperienced defensive play coupled with a revolving door of constantly changing pairings.

While the defensive unit is likely to improve next season, there’s no question the Blackhawks will have to do something in net. Veteran Petr Mrazek was arguably the team’s MVP this year, enjoying one of the best campaigns of his career and holding down the fort nearly every time he was on the ice. Beyond him, though, the Blackhawks are faced with four options before the net is secured this fall.

Maintain Status Quo

The good news for the Blackhawks is that, while top AHL goalie Jaxson Stauber is set to hit restricted free agency, both of the NHL goaltenders are signed through at least next season. That means that, if they feel it’s best, nothing necessarily has to change on the NHL level. Mrazek and Arvid Soderblom could share the net for another year, and while there may be better options worth considering, there’s no doubt it would be an improvement. Another year under the 24-year-old Soderblom’s belt could be just what he needs to provide a solid presence s a backup goaltender next season.

Resign Stauber, Give Him A Longer Look

Chicago’s next option begins with resigning 25-year-old Jaxson Stauber, who is coming off of his entry-level contract. If that happens, the team could give him more run at the NHL level. By doing so, Stauber would be given a purpose with the Blackhawks. He’s in a tricky spot, as Adam Gajan and Drew Commesso are two names in the prospect pool who are likely to overtake him. Stauber deserves a chance to make an impact in the NHL and stay ahead of his competitors.

However, it could be argued that Stauber doesn’t make the Blackhawks any better next season. He and Soderblom boast a similar amount of experience, but the latter has seen more time in the NHL. By giving Stauber a longer look in the league, Chicago would essentially be going back to square one in developing their young netminders with NHL experience.

Free Agency

If the Blackhawks do believe they’re in a position to win after undergoing a lengthy rebuild, the best decision could be made on the open market. They have the advantage in cap space to overpay a veteran, but such a deal would likely be a short-term one, simply delaying the inevitable problem for a year or two.

Stars like Toronto’s Ilya Samsonov or the Kings’ Cam Talbot could hit free agency and would be huge acquisitions for the Blackhawks. Even if they don’t, Kyle Davidson and his staff have a decent-sized list of other veterans that could be signed.

Trade Targets

Davidson is armed with more than enough assets to make a trade for a strong goaltender. With several first- and second-round picks in the next few years, as well as a handful of solid players that aren’t part of the long-term plans of the franchise, the Blackhawks could use that, along with their abundance of cap space, to trade for a goaltender like Edmonton’s Jack Campbell (three years remaining at a $3.85 million cap hit).

While the Blackhawks are faced with a number of different options in net for next season, one thing is certain: they have to improve. Whether that’s via Soderblom staying and developing, giving Stauber a shot, signing a free agent, or orchestrating a trade, Chicago has a hefty decision on its hands.

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