Blackhawks won’t re-sign Corey Crawford, commit to rebuilding through youth

Blackhawks won’t re-sign Corey Crawford, commit to rebuilding through youth

Longtime Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford will not return next season, ushering in a new era for the team. | Bill Kostroun/AP

General manager Stan Bowman announced Thursday the Hawks will move on from their longtime goaltender, instead turning to prospects Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen.

The Blackhawks’ rebuild has a green light at last.

Longtime veteran goaltender Corey Crawford won’t return to the Hawks next season, general manager Stan Bowman announced Thursday, and Crawford’s departure may soon be followed by a number of other veterans.

The Hawks, after three straight seasons of losing records with their aging Stanley Cup dynasty core, have committed to building through youth moving forward.

“Now that we’ve made the decision the way that we’re going to move forward [with youth], there’s going to be a lot more things that we’re going to talk about over the coming days as far as planning next year’s team,” Bowman said.

Crawford, 35, has started 473 games for the Hawks and won two Cups as the team’s primary starting goalie dating to 2010-11.

But he’ll become an unrestricted free agent Friday at 11 a.m., joining a loaded class of free-agent goalies. Bowman said he had an emotional conversation with Crawford on Thursday morning about the departure.

“He’s up there with the legends of the Blackhawks. Corey stands tall as a two-time Cup champion,” Bowman said. “The message to Corey and everyone else today is that we’ve decided that we’ve got some goaltenders here in Chicago that we believe in.

“The NHL is relying more and more on young players. We’re gonna embrace that moving forward.”

The Hawks will turn to Collin Delia, 26, and Kevin Lankinen, 25 — two of the best AHL goaltenders over the past few seasons — to take over the goaltending duties at the NHL level. They’re also still hoping to re-sign Malcolm Subban, 26, despite not tendering him a qualifying offer Wednesday.

Numerous other veterans could also be on the move soon.

Bowman avoided explicitly labeling the Hawks’ new approach as a full-on rebuild, but made it clear this represents a “philosophical” shift in team-building.

This story will be updated.

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