What are the Blackhawks’ Options to Improve in Net Next Season?

Arvid Soderblom Chicago Blackhawks
Arvid Soderblom Chicago Blackhawks

When Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson met with the media to close the 2023-24 season over this past weekend, one of the subjects that came up was goaltending. Petr Mrazek was very good this season — he was arguably the team’s MVP — while Arvid Söderblom had his share of struggles in his first full NHL season.

Davidson was quick to point out that the Blackhawks struggled defensively this season and didn’t always (rarely?) put their goaltenders in a favorable position. He also spoke about how the development timeline for goaltenders is less certain/easy to define as defensemen or forwards. But he did note that the position is an area that need to be addressed this summer.

The Blackhawks have three goaltenders signed into next year currently: Mrazek, Söderblom and Drew Commesso, who is coming off a solid first professional season in Rockford. Söderblom is still young in experience on North American ice and should still be viewed as a work-in-progress. With that in mind, Davidson said they’re going to evaluate the organization’s depth when Rockford’s season comes to an end and look to add depth/competition moving forward.

So what are the Blackhawks’ options to help bolster an important position this summer? Obviously they need to be better defensively in front of whomever is in the blue paint, but making goaltending a position of strength behind a building roster is important.

Option 1: Re-Sign Jaxson Stauber, Give Him a Shot

Davidson was very complimentary of Stauber’s season in Rockford, his first full season with a heavy professional workload (he appeared in only 17 AHL and 6 NHL games last year). Stauber turns 25 on April 27 and is an RFA this summer. He posted a .902 save percentage in 31 regular season appearances for the IceHogs this season.

I like Stauber and would like to see him get more run with the organization. But he’s in a tough spot with the organization. Davidson also mentioned Adam Gajan, a second-round pick in 2023 who will head to Minnesota-Duluth, as being part of the long-term plan. My big question with re-signing Stauber and allowing him to compete with Söderblom for the back-up job in Chicago is does that make the Blackhawks better? It would effectively be status quo; Söderblom turns 25 in August and has 50 NHL games and 71 AHL games on his North American resume. And, unlike Stauber, he’s already signed thru next season.

Option 2: Hit the Free Agent Market

With the Blackhawks already having Mrazek signed for two more years, and — in theory — having Commesso coming at some point before that contract ends, Chicago could look to the open market for help. However, the one problem with going to the free agent market is likely only wanting to sign a guy to a 1-2 year deal (sorry, Seth). The shorter term might force the Hawks to either look to the scrap heap for a “one more chance” veteran, or overpay in salary (not an issue with the Hawks trying to get to the floor).

Okay, so what are some options? (Player age in parenthesis)

  • Cam Talbot (34) — coming off a $1M cap hit in LA. Appeared in 54 games.
  • Ilya Samsonov (27) — coming off a $3.55M cap hit in Toronto. Appeared in 40 games.
  • Alex Nedeljkovic (28) — coming off a $1.5M cap hit in Pittsburgh. Appeared in 38 games.
  • Kaapo Kähkönen (27) — coming off a $2.75M cap hit in New Jersey. Appeared in 27 games.
  • Laurent Brossoit (31) — coming off a $1.75M cap hit in Winnipeg. Appeared in 23 games.
  • Option 3: Trade for a Veteran

    With the Blackhawks’ load of draft picks in coming years and a handful of restricted free agents they may not want to bring back, Davidson has some assets he could consider including in a trade for goaltending depth. This might be an easier way to control the cost of acquisition; move out players you don’t want/need and know the term/dollars of the contract coming in. Remember: Davidson traded two RFA defensemen, Ian Mitchell and Alec Regula, to Boston for Taylor Hall and the rights to Nick Foligno.

    Okay, so what are some options?

  • Calgary: the Flames need to sign RFA Dustin Wolf this summer, which could be a nice push for them to move a netminder. They already have $6M committed to Jacob Markström (for two more years) and $2.2M committed to Dan Vladar for one more year. If Wolf is the future, would they be willing to eat salary on Markström? Would the Blackhawks want that much competition for Mrazek/more than $7M committed to goaltending for two more years? Markström has a NMC and it’s hard to imagine he would waive it for a rebuild like Chicago. But Vladar, who’s 26, might be an intriguing play with one year on his deal. I would tend to think the goaltenders in Calgary are going to be incredibly popular with teams that need to upgrade that position, so they might not work for the Blackhawks.
  • Philadelphia: with the Flyers signing Ivan Fedotov to a two-year deal with a $3.25M cap hit, they now have three netminders on their payroll for next season. One would have to figure Samuel Ersson is the starter; he was good for them as a rookie. Cal Petersen has a $3.85M cap hit and was buried by the Flyers late in the season. One would have to think a team could get Petersen for relatively cheap if Philly buried him this season. He had a sub-.900 save percentage in only five NHL appearances, however. Carter Hart is not an option. His career is in jeopardy as he deals with potential jail time in Canada.
  • Edmonton: Jack Campbell has three more years on his deal with a $3.85M cap hit. It looks and feels like the Oilers can’t get rid of that paper fast enough. And I’m not a fan of the idea of the Blackhawks doing them the favor of taking it. I pass on helping the Oilers.
  • San Jose: the Sharks may have liked what they saw from rookie Devin Cooley enough to give him a crack at the NHL lineup next year in some capacity. If they do, one of Mackenzie Blackwood and Vitek Vanecek could be available. Neither is great, but they have experience. They’re both in their late-20s and have only one year remaining on their contracts; Vanecek finished this season on IR, however. The Sharks might want to keep three around for depth and to get to the salary floor, however.
  • written by

    Tab Bamford has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks for almost two decades. He joined Bleacher Nation as the lead Blackhawks writer in May 2022. Tab is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and is the author of two books about the Blackhawks: "100 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" (Triumph Books) and "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter/X/Instagram/Threads at @The1Tab

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