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Corey Crawford Will Not Return To The Blackhawks

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Goaltender Corey Crawford won't suit up for the Blackhawks next season.

According to the team's general manager Stan Bowman, Crawford will no longer be with the team. He said they had what he called an "good, emotional conversation" Thursday morning.

The 35-year-old Crawford had been in net for the Blackhawks most of the last decade, and helped them raise two of their three Stanley Cups. He's their all-time leader in playoff wins and third in overall victories.

The move seems to signal the Blackhawks are rebuilding for the future, while acknowledging what Crawford meant to their past.

He said "the two-time Stanley Cup Champion is up there with Blackhawks legends." Bowman added "we have some young goaltenders we believe in." Two young goalies the Blackhawks have under contract are Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen. They have a combined 16 NHL starts, that's 458 fewer than Crawford.

Malcolm Subban, a goaltender who came over in the Lehner deal, is eligible for unrestricted free agency after he didn't receive a qualifying offer, but Bowman said the team is interested in bringing him back.

"Much like Corey needed that opportunity when he came up after the 2010 season — he had been with us for a few years, working his way up — we've got a couple young goalies here in Lankinen and Delia who we haven't given a real big opportunity to," Bowman said. "With where we're headed, the NHL is relying more and more on young players. We're going to embrace that moving forward."

The Blackhawks missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons. They also would have missed out this year if the NHL hadn't decided to go with a 24-team postseason format.

Whoever replaces Crawford in net jumps into a tough situation. Chicago allowed an NHL-high 35.1 shots per game this year, and rookie defensemen Ian Mitchell and Wyatt Kalynuk are expected to join the lineup next season.

But the move also creates more room to maneuver with the NHL's flat $81.5 million salary cap. The Blackhawks extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome, and Bowman left open the possibility of bringing back one of team's non-tendered RFAs.

"It doesn't necessarily mean these players won't be coming back to the Blackhawks," Bowman said. "I think, in particular, we're hopeful that we can get Malcolm signed."

Crawford joins an impressive list of available goaltenders that also includes Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby, Thomas Greiss, Jacob Markstrom and Anton Khudobin. Vegas' Marc-Andre Fleury also is reportedly available via trade after Lehner signed his new deal.

Crawford, who missed parts of the previous two seasons because of concussions, has 260 wins with a .918 save percentage and 2.45 GAA in 488 career NHL games. The team paid tribute to Crawford on its Twitter account after the announcement, and Bowman said he belongs in the same conversation as the franchise's elite goaltenders.

"To be a two-time Stanley Cup champion, the only goaltender in the history of the Blackhawks to do that, I think it speaks volumes to his ability," Bowman said. "He's up there with the legends for the Blackhawks; Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall, Corey Crawford."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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