Blackhawks Sign G Crawford, Avalanche Free Agent Goalie Prospects Improve

The Colorado Avalanche have made it their stated offseason goal to improve the team's goaltending heading into next season. With limited options available in the free agent market this summer -- and with plenty of teams chasing the same goal -- it may be difficult for Colorado to find a quality starting goalie within their price range. Teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and New York Islanders will all be looking heavily into upgrading via the free agent goalie market.

The Chicago Blackhawks were on that list until earlier today, when they agreed to a three year contract with restricted free agent Corey Crawford valued at $8 million. The 26 year old played well in his rookie season, eventually stealing the starting role from veteran Marty Turco. Crawford was a playoff hero for Chicago against the Vancouver Canucks, almost stealing Game Seven before falling in overtime.

How does this help the Avalanche? Corey Crawford was not one of the top goalies on the market. His rookie numbers were good, but not excellent. Crawford performed admirably in his first playoff experience, but struggled earlier in the series. His contract removes one of the biggest shoppers in this summer's free agent market, a cap-strapped Blackhawks team that was likely to be interested in players of the same caliber and price range as Colorado.

The Avalanche can now use their sizable cap space and flexibility to outbid essentially any team in the goalie free agent market, if they choose that route. With Chicago out of the picture, the buyer's market just became even more favorable for Colorado GM Greg Sherman.

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