Corey Crawford signs new contract

The Chicago Blackhawks recently signed rookie goaltender Corey Crawford to a 3-year contract extension worth $8 million, equaling a cap hit of about $2.6 million. This news has Washington Capitals fans worried about what kind of contract Semyon Varlamov will receive this summer, or if he will get one at all. Crawford and Varlamov are both rookie goalies at the end of their entry-level contracts and have plenty of NHL experience.  The majority of people (including me) believe that Varly will probably not receive more than the $1.25 mil per season that Michal Neuvirth will make the next couple of seasons. However, there are others who see him making a lot more than that because he’s a former first round pick and a higher ceiling than Neuvirth, which is why Crawford getting $8 mil over 3 seasons worries Caps fans. Let’s dig a little deeper to show why people shouldn’t worry so much.

You have to consider the context in signings like this and one thing to keep in mind is that Crawford is 26 years old, which means he’s barely a rookie and his lack of NHL experience going into this season was the only thing keeping him from being classified as one. Crawford was drafted by the Hawks in 2003 and has been in their system since 2005. It was thought by many that he would be Chicago’s back-up in 2009-10 but some guy named Antti Niemi came out of nowhere and emerged as the team’s starter once Cristobal Huet flopped. With Niemi and Huet gone, Crawford was then able to gain more playing time with the Blackhawks and he made the most of it and became the starter (after Chicago’s brief experiment with Marty Turco didn’t work out). He started 55 games, had a very good EV save percentage of .924 and a good SAA (Saves Above Average) of .924. That along with a good showing in the playoffs earned him this new contract.

Varlamov’s situation is pretty different from Crawford’s when looking at their statistics over their careers.

Name Year GP SA SV PCT SAA Contract Age
Crawford 2011 57 1267 1171 0.924 4.36 $2.66 mil 26
Crawford 2006-11 65 1406 1301 0.925 1.27
Varlamov 2011 27 611 568 0.930 5.4 ???? 23
Varlamov 2008-11 59 1325 1230 0.928 3.7

Crawford’s been in the league longer, but 90% of his shots faced are from this season. Varlamov has seen less shots than Crawford in his 3-4 years of NHL experience partially due to injuries and playing in a platoon system with Jose Theodore and Michal Neuvirth, so that’s kind of expected. You can also tell by Crawford’s huge increase in playing time and the contract he received that Chicago is ready to proclaim him the goalie of the future. Is that premature to to after one good season? Possibly, but he has been in their system for awhile, and paying him $2.66 mil is better than bidding out other teams this summer. On the other hand, Varly has not been declared the goalie of the future yet for the Caps and that was made clear by the fact that he didn’t get any playing time in the post-season.

One other thing to consider is that a lot of NHL players tend to peak in their late 20’s, which is what Crawford is nearing while Varlamov is still only 23, so what the Hawks got out of Crawford this season might be the best they get. Varlamov still has room to improve even though he has played great when healthy. That could have a big factor of what kind of contract he will get when looking at some comparable players.

Name Year GP SA SV PCT SAA Contract Age
Ondrej Pavelec 2010 42 1064 966 0.908 -12.1 $1.15 mil 22
2007-10 61 1459 1326 0.909 -5.07
Tuukka Rask 2010 45 988 926 0.937 17.7 $1.25 mil 23
2007-10 50 1085 1018 0.938 6.83
Jimmy Howard 2011 63 1492 1366 0.916 -7.82 $2.25 mil 26
2006-11 135 3161 2908 0.920 0.02
Jonathan Quick 2010 72 1526 1402 0.919 -0.80 $1.9 mil 24
2008-2010 119 2497 2298 0.920 1.27
Carey Price 2010 41 991 913 0.921 2.00 $2.75 mil 22
2008-10 134 3129 2889 0.923 4.2
Jaroslav Halak 2010 45 1126 1051 0.933 15.9 $3.75 mil 25
2007-10 56 1330 1222 0.919 4.075
Pekka Rinne 2010 58 1275 1180 0.925 7.9 $3.4 mil 27
2006-10 113 2512 2325 0.926 4.025

These are all goalies who were impending free agents on entry level contracts who got pretty solid raises. Since Neuvirth is under contract and we have seen what Braden Holtby can do at the NHL level, I think Varlamov is more likely to get a contract like Jonathan Quick or Tuukka Rask, especially since the latter is playing behind Tim Thomas. Jimmy Howard’s contract and situation he was in can be easily compared to Howard’s, while I think Jonathan Quick’s situation fits Varlamov’s more. The Los Angeles Kings still have Jonathan Bernier in their system, so it was unknown if Quick would be the goalie of the future there despite him getting a lot of playing time. Meanwhile, it’s been apparent for that Howard will be the Wings goalie for at least the next couple of years since Chris Osgood will retire and the other goalies in their system aren’t ready yet. $1.25-$1.9 mil per season is what I could see being offered to Varlamov. The issue here is how much Varly himself thinks he’s worth.

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