So ... What Are the Blackhawks Plans for the Future in Net?

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So … What Are the Blackhawks Plans for the Future in Net?

Chicago Blackhawks

When Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson discussed how he plans on using (or not using) his cap flexibility this summer, one area of note was one of the more important positions on the roster: goaltending.

The Blackhawks’ primary NHL goaltenders this season were Marc-André Fleury (45 appearances) and Kevin Lankinen (32). Collin Delia appeared in eight games and Arvid Söderblom appeared in three.

Fleury was, of course, traded to Minnesota and is still playing. While Delia and Lankinen are both unrestricted free agents coming off deals that had $1 million and $800,000 cap hits, respectively. Which means the Blackhawks don’t have an experienced NHL goaltender under contract for next season.

Davidson discussed the need to figure out the situation in the short-term on Tuesday.

“We definitely need to bring some NHL contracts in. Kevin [Lankinen] and Collin [Delia] are part of that discussion, they’re not out of that candidate list, but there’s some players that we’ll look at in free agency and see which direction we want to go, not ruling out the trade market either. You never know what presents itself, but it’s definitely an area we know we need to address quite simply because we don’t have anyone signed.”

One name to keep in mind for next year and the short-term future is Söderblom, who made 33 saves in Rockford’s 2-1 win to open their playoff series on Wednesday night.

Söderblom turns 23 on Aug. 19 and is signed through next year with a $883,750 cap hit. He could be in the mix for more NHL ice time, helping the organization cover the short-term future.  Davidson used the word “excellent” when describing his performance in Rockford this season.

I say the short-term answer because the Blackhawks should feel pretty good about the longer-term future. And I’m certainly not excluding Söderblom from the conversation about the longer term.

Davidson didn’t exclude him, either.

“Söderblom has been excellent in Rockford this year. He’s been great and he’s one of the major reasons why they are where they are in the standings with a relatively young team. As a young goalie himself, it’s pretty impressive that he has been able to come over to North America and, in his first year, put the type of performance he has in and bring Rockford to a playoff play-in situation. He’s getting some really good experience.”

As we noted previously, Davidson isn’t going to rush players to the NHL; he’s more concerned about proper development as a route to sustaining success than getting the flashy prospect to the top level as quickly as possible. Fans who (ironically) waited patiently for Stan Bowman to abide by this approach should be thrilled, even if it means we have to wait for young players to get to Chicago.

Davidson was very pointed with his comments about a development timeline for his goaltenders — and all of the club’s prospects.

“Any valuation of the pipeline is not necessarily in the quality of what we have. It’s moreso in the quantity, and the quantity is what you need in building a depth of talent that’s going to come up together and sustain success at the NHL level. We have some players that have an opportunity to play up the lineup, but that’s all going to be determined in their development. And so we’re going to give them every tool and every ability to reach their potential, but we just don’t have enough of that. We need to get more. If we can add more high-end talent, then that’s what we really want to do. It’s not necessarily an indictment on the players in our system; it’s moreso just outlining, we need more.”

Two other young goaltenders in play for the Blackhawks who were mentioned by Davidson are Jaxson Stauber and Drew Commesso. Davidson was very quick to point out that they aren’t ready for the NHL, but likes their potential to become impact netminders down the road.

Stauber, 23, signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Blackhawks that begins next year with a $883,750 AAV. He was a finalist for the Mike Richter Award after his junior season at Providence College. An undrafted college free agent, he just turned 23 in late-April so he’s still relatively young.

Commesso is the name many Hawks fans have been watching for a while, however.

The Blackhawks invested a second-round pick (No. 46 overall) in 2020. He’ll turn 20 on July 19 and has represented the United States in international events multiple times, including the Winter Olympics this year after the pandemic ended his second attempt at participating in the World Juniors.

Commesso has played two seasons at Boston University; Alex Vlasic was his teammate for both seasons before joining the Hawks after this season ended for the Terriers. He has not signed with the Blackhawks yet, and is returning to BU for a junior campaign.

Davidson likes the two young college goaltenders’ futures.

“There’s a lot of promise. I’m really excited, having spoken to and watched all of them play. There’s a lot to be excited about in our prospect depth in net, which I don’t think many people really talk about. For me, it’s something I’m quietly really optimistic about.”