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Musick: Crawford’s big deal up for debate

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP file photo)
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford hoists the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins, 3-2, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Boston. The Blackhawks and Crawford have agreed to a six-year contract extension. The Blackhawks announced the deal Monday.

Although I lack behind-the-scenes details regarding Corey Crawford’s contract extension with the Blackhawks, I imagine the conversation went something like this.

Stan Bowman: Corey, we want you here for the long haul. We’d like to sign you to a six-year contract extension that runs through 2019-20.

Corey Crawford: [Bleeping] right, Chicago!!!

OK, so maybe the conversation was not as vulgar as Crawford’s, um, colorful speech that took place this summer at the Hawks’ Stanley Cup championship rally in Grant Park. Perhaps Crawford didn’t speak at all, instead stunned speechless by the deal reportedly worth $36 million that will secure him and his loved ones for the rest of their lives.

That is some serious change. Not even the Stanley Cup can hold all of those pennies.

“I want to be in Chicago for my whole career,” Crawford, 28, told reporters during a conference call. “And this is amazing to be able to do this and get this deal done.”

It is amazing.

Is it wise for the Blackhawks? Well, that’s up for debate.

The hockey puck angel on my right shoulder is quick to point out that Crawford is a major reason why the Hawks will raise their Stanley Cup championship banner Oct. 1 against the Washington Capitals.

During a stellar playoff run that included a couple of brief hiccups, Crawford went 16-7 with a .932 save percentage and a 1.84 goals-against average.

Crawford deserved to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player. Even Patrick Kane, the guy who won the trophy, admitted as much.

But the hockey puck devil on my left shoulder is quick to point out that only six months ago, Hawks observers debated whether Crawford or Ray Emery should be the playoff starter. That debate was muted because of a late-season injury to Emery, but the point remains, which is that many people (myself included) worried about Crawford’s streaky play.

Crawford’s mega deal (by hockey standards) represents his Joe Flacco moment. Like the Baltimore Ravens quarterback, Crawford a) faced scrutiny for up-and-down performances, b) enjoyed a terrific run during the postseason, and c) struck it rich as a reward.

It wasn’t so long ago – back in 2010, when Antti Niemi clinched a Cup with the Hawks – that Crawford was a minor-league veteran with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. A money crunch led the Hawks to part ways with Niemi, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal with San Jose and then re-signed a four-year extension reportedly worth $15.2 million.

Three seasons later, Crawford has the same number of championships and a much larger sum of money than his former Finnish roadblock.

The Hawks’ strategy in terms of roster building has proved to be brilliant in recent years. Basically, they identify a small group of core players and aggressively target them for lucrative, long-term deals. The rest of the team, more or less, is interchangeable.

Kane is part of the core. So are Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. On the blue line, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are part of the core.

Now, Crawford has joined the club.

Does he belong?

Good [bleeping] question.

• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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