Lots of names on the Blackhawks roster have been floating around trade rumors since July, from the obvious Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to the clear rental one-year deals with Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou. Recently, Jake McCabe‘s name has surfaced as a quality defenseman with term left on his contract that could attract suitors (though his seven-team no trade list has led to questions about his willingness to move to Canada).
Add a new name to the list: goaltender Alex Stalock.
NBC Sports’ Charlie Roumeliotis posed the idea on Monday morning, and it’s a worthy conversation. Teams all over the NHL are reportedly looking for goaltending help, both because of injuries (Pittsburgh) and just looking to improve the position (Buffalo, Edmonton). So having a goaltender playing well on a team that’s clearly looking to sell should make it obvious that there could/will be interest.
Stalock signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks over the summer, like Domi and AA. But unlike Domi and AA, there were more questions about Stalock thrown around than trade scenarios. The two forwards have had varying levels of success in the NHL and were viewed as reclamation projects who could be a buy-low, sell-high scenario for both the player and Blackhawks. Stalock was coming back from significant health issues that kept him out of the league for almost two seasons, so what he would be able to do was a wonder.
What he’s done is become the Blackhawks’ No. 1 goaltender. As Roumeliotis points out, “Stalock now has the fifth-best save percentage among qualified goaltenders at .923. He’s also recorded a quality start in nine of 12 starts this season for a percentage of 750, which ranks No. 3 among goaltenders with at least 10 starts, according to Hockey Reference.“
All of that as a package for the bargain price of what’s left on a one-year, $750,000 contract would seem to be ideal for teams with tight cap situations that need help.
The one issue is Stalock’s health. He missed a month because of a concussion he suffered against the Islanders on Nov. 1, so the sample size we’re working with is still somewhat limited. But what he’s been able to do behind what I would comfortably describe as a struggling defensive group that has had its share of injury issues has really been impressive.
What about next year?
I regularly get questions on social media and in person about Stalock staying around. And my response is always “I would love it because he’s a great guy in the room and a fun personality.” Stalock has really been one of the fun guys to talk to and watch him work his way back to top form this season. He doesn’t take anything for granted.
But here’s the catch…
The Blackhawks likely have two goaltenders for the 2023-24 roster under some level of control. Petr Mrazek has one more year on his contract at $3.8 million and nobody is going to take that (unless the Blackhawks are bringing back a veteran goaltender with a more expensive contract in the process). And Arvid Söderblom came up and played well while Stalock and Mrazek were hurt. Söderblom is an RFA this summer but appears to be part of the transition plans for the Blackhawks.
Drew Commesso, the team’s top unsigned goaltending prospect, is having a solid year at Boston University and many (including me) expect the Blackhawks to work on signing him when his junior campaign ends. If he’s the future, that’s great; he’ll still need at least one year in Rockford, if not two.
There’s a real possibility the Blackhawks also consider signing Dominic Basse as well. The Blackhawks’ sixth-round pick (No. 167) in the 2019 NHL Draft is having a marvelous season with St. Cloud State that includes a .930 save percentage. After a couple rough seasons at Colorado College, a transfer to St. Cloud State has been great for him and he’s having a strong season. He’s 21 and might be a consideration this summer.
The Blackhawks also have Jaxson Stauber signed through next year as a depth goalie for the organization.
So the path to Stalock returning has a lot of considerations behind it that are complicated by the Blackhawks rebuilding plans and desire to add as many assets as possible to accelerate that process. Like I said, he’s been amazing in the room and the guys love playing in front of him but the number of factors surrounding his position make it a cloudy picture beyond this season.