The Chicago Blackhawks spent the 2011-12 season deploying Corey Crawford and Ray Emery in net. The goaltender that was the “number one” starter by definition was simply whichever netminder had the hot hand at the time. It has been a shaky system at times but ultimately it has been one that has worked, carrying Chicago to yet another playoff berth.
As a result, the Blackhawks have decided to reward Emery for his hard work by giving him a one-year, $1.15 million extension as reported by Sporting News.
With Emery signed for 2012-13 and Crawford signed through the 2013-14 season, it appears the Blackhawks are willing to have another goalie carousel for at least one more season, barring any major injuries or trades.
Emery was signed by Chicago prior to the 2011-12 season on an inexpensive one-year, $600,000 contract. Emery has been a bargain, providing valuable starts when called upon and rising to the challenge when Crawford has struggled. He ends the regular season with a record of 15-9-4 and a GAA of 2.81. His save percentage finishes up atan even .900%.
His 2011-12 numbers won’t seem impressive. Realistically, they’re not. However, Emery had his stretches of dominance, specificallyin December where he won five consecutive starts. He ended up starting 27 games while appearing in seven additional in relief – a fairly busy workload for a backup netminder on a high-profile club.
Emery should enjoy his new contract extension not only because it is nearly double the salary that he was making in 2011-12, but mostly because he won’t be left looking for a job over the summer in a market that has been littered with backups searching for work. Also, Emery has played on four teams in the last four seasons – Ottawa, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Chicago. He should be thankful he won’t have to pack his bags over the summer.
For Chicago, the move makes sense. They know what Emery brings to the table and they know that when he gets hot he can be a capable presence in net. Given Chicago’s tiny amount of wiggle room beneath the cap ceiling, Emery’s deal is also a smart one financially. He comes relatively cheap and is a known expense. If Chicago was to let him walk they’d likely have to bring in a new backup with a salary between $600,000 and $1 million while not possessing extensive knowledge about him like they do with Emery.
All in all, it’s a smart deal for both parties.
However, while Chicago’s goaltending picture is settled it’s not to say fans are feeling confident. Crawford and Emery have looked pretty vulnerable at times. They both allowed a whole bunch of goals in 2011-12 and neither man has been able to hold on to the starting job consistently in 2011-12. Chicago is gambling that one man, likely Crawford, steps up to the challenge with Emery pushing him from the bench. This strategy (mostly) worked in 2011-12 but it will be pretty interesting to see how well it goes in 2012-13.
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com.