After 13 NHL seasons, the Corey Crawford era in Blackhawks history is officially coming to a close.
In the final season of his contract, the possibility has been there for much of the last year, but Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman made it official on Thursday, saying that the team will not renew the 35-year-old netminder's deal when it expires at the start NHL free agency on Friday morning.
"I had a conversation with Corey earlier today and it was a bit of an emotional talk. Corey and I go back a long time," he told reporters. "He's up there with the legends for the Blackhawks: Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall, Corey Crawford. Corey stands tall as a two-time Cup champion."
Video: Thank You, Corey
A second-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2003 (52nd overall), Crawford stepped into the starting role for the 2010-11 season and has been the go-to backstop since. Bowman recalled the difficult decision to send Crawford back to Rockford the year prior before the 2009-10 campaign, but it turned out to be the final step he needed to become the 'Crow' Blackhawks fans know today.
"We had a tough decision and it was more of a business decision back then. Corey didn't need waivers," Bowman said of keeping Antti Niemi over Crawford on the eventual 2010 Stanley Cup squad. "That was a tough conversation to let him know that he had played well but we were sending him down to Rockford. To his credit Corey handled it the right way, went down, had a really good season and that next year, he came up and he's been our goaltender ever since. We had some incredible moments together."
Video: Bowman on not re-signing Crawford
Crawford is the franchise's only goalie to win multiple Stanley Cups (2013, 2015) and multiple William M. Jennings Trophies (2012-13, 2014-15) as the netminder with the fewest goals against in the regular season. He owns franchise records for playoff wins (52) and regular-season save percentage (.918, min. 100 appearances). He is second in 30+ win seasons (6), third in regular-season wins (260) and sixth in regular-season shutouts (26).
The Châteauguay, Quebec native also appeared in two NHL All-Star Games (2015, 2017) and represented his country in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, helping Team Canada to the gold medal.
"The message to Corey and to everyone else today is that we've decided we have some young goaltenders here in Chicago we believe in," Bowman added. "Much like Corey needed that opportunity when he came up after the 2010 season … we have a couple young goalies in (Kevin) Lankinen and (Collin) Delia who we haven't given a real opportunity to. With where we're headed, the NHL is relying more and more on young players. We're going to embrace that going forward."
Bowman added that the team is also hopeful to re-sign restricted free agent Malcolm Subban to create a three-way competition of young netminders heading into next season.