The Blackhawks made a surprising decision on Thursday when GM Stan Bowman announced that the organization would not re-sign veteran goaltender Corey Crawford.
Crawford, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 52 overall) of the 2003 NHL Draft, has been the team's full-time starter since the 2010-11 season and helped bring two Stanley Cups to Chicago. But the management group informed Crawford on Thursday morning that the Blackhawks wanted to go younger in goal and were moving on.
"I was pretty devastated to get the news about not returning to Chicago," Crawford said. "That's all I've known for my whole career, and they just wanted to go a different way."
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The Blackhawks reportedly offered Crawford a one-year, $3.5 million contract but never budged. Crawford said he expected more back and forth during the negotiation process but that didn't happen.
"I think everyone was pretty shocked," Crawford said after speaking to many of his former Blackhawks teammates about the news. "But we've had it happen before with [Andrew] Shaw and [Niklas] Hjalmarsson and some other guys throughout the years. That's sports. I never really thought I would be part of that, but here we are. So it's time to move on."
While it wasn't exactly the exit he had in mind, Crawford didn't have much time to digest the news with NHL free agency opening up on Friday. He eventually signed a two-year, $7.8 million deal ($3.9 million cap hit) with the New Jersey Devils, who showed extreme interest from the beginning.
"It's a team that has a ton of young skill," Crawford said. "They're up and coming, it's a team I'm excited to be a part of. I want to help Jersey win hockey games and the goal is to win a championship. It's time to move on and get a fresh start. This is the first time I've done this, I'm excited."