Alex Stalock has been one of many Chicago Blackhawks‘ biggest surprises this season. Despite a below-average group in front of him, the 35-year-old has posted a .920 save percentage (SV%) with a 7-8-1 record through 17 games, which is rather impressive after playing just one NHL game last season.
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Stalock has benefited from a recent begin in Chicago. With his contract expiring on the finish of the season, administration might simply transfer on and hand the backup duties to Arvid Söderblom or Jaxson Stauber. However, whereas each have proven promise, the Blackhawks ought to take into account extending Stalock for an additional season. Although he gained’t be an element once they contend once more, his presence might proceed serving to the workforce within the quick time period.
Stalock Keeps the Atmosphere Light
The Blackhawks are possible going to be a youthful membership subsequent season, particularly if Lukas Reichel, Cole Guttman, and different prospects make the leap to the NHL full-time. Per CapFriendly, the group can have simply over $41 million of projected cap area, that means they’ll want to signal just a few unrestricted free agent (UFA) veterans to assist attain the cap ground.
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With extra prospects comes the necessity for mentorship, which Stalock has supplied throughout his Blackhawks tenure. Earlier this season, head coach Luke Richardson credited him for being a optimistic affect on his teammates whereas having a heat and outgoing character (from “Alex Stalock’s fearless goaltending, big personality winning over Blackhawks,” Chicago Sun-Times, 10/24/22). As the rebuild continues, the Blackhawks will definitely endure extra rising pains, so they need to need gamers who can hold issues calm and picked up.
Stalock isn’t new to adversity. He sat out all of 2020-21 due to myocarditis from COVID-19 problems and performed only one sport with the San Jose Sharks final season, spending most of his time within the American Hockey League (AHL). This season alone, Stalock has suffered two concussions. However, he has been stellar when wholesome, most not too long ago recording a 35-save shutout in a 5-0 win towards the Ottawa Senators on Monday, March 6. It was probably the most saves he had ever recorded in a shutout, and he stated postgame that the win was a terrific confidence-booster (from “Blackhawks goalie Alex Stalock’s shutout performance means much more than a number,” The Athletic, 03/07/23).
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Stalock has embraced his position in Chicago. Rebuilds might be painful, however understanding his expertise, most of the workforce’s youthful gamers can search for to him when issues don’t go so nicely. Positivity is vital proper now, a trait Stalock has constantly introduced to the membership.
Stalock Could Be a Possible Trade Piece
Had Stalock not suffered his second concussion in mid-January, he might need been a commerce chip for the Blackhawks, as he was already posting good numbers earlier than the harm. Since returning on Feb. 28, he’s been simply as stable; as well as to Monday’s shutout, he was one of many workforce’s few vibrant spots in Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, stopping 37 of 41 photographs.
Overall, he’s having the most effective seasons of his NHL profession. It’s a far cry from his profession marketing campaign with the Sharks in 2013-14 when he recorded a 1.87 goals-against common (GAA) and a .932 SV%, however he’s nonetheless exceeded expectations. If the Blackhawks prolonged Stalock for subsequent season, the worst that would occur is he regresses. As unhealthy because the Blackhawks have been this season, they’ll possible be simply as unhealthy subsequent season, so it’s not like a poor efficiency would harm them and their long-term objectives.
That stated, he might simply grow to be a commerce chip earlier than subsequent season’s deadline. Much like Max Domi this season, the Blackhawks might signal Stalock to a one-year deal, understanding they might flip him when his worth is excessive. It could be comprehensible if he does regress; it’s laborious to see the Blackhawks bettering a lot this offseason until they land Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli in the draft and construct round certainly one of them. Yet, Stalock could be a serviceable backup for a lot of contenders, and you may solely marvel what his numbers would seem like with a greater group round him.
If the Blackhawks introduced again Stalock, not solely wouldn’t it profit the membership within the locker room, nevertheless it might additionally assist them achieve extra future belongings, together with draft picks and/or prospects. At the identical time, conserving him round might set Söderblom and/or Stauber up for achievement, even when which means extra AHL seasoning.
Blackhawks Can’t Rush Söderblom & Stauber
Something we’ve realized about Blackhawks normal supervisor Kyle Davidson since he took over is he hasn’t hesitated to oversaturate his prospects, even those that are NHL-ready. The Blackhawks might have simply had Reichel begin the season on the NHL degree. However, he started the 12 months with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and didn’t make his 2022-23 Blackhawks debut till Dec. 6 towards the New Jersey Devils.
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Söderblom and Stauber have impressed this season throughout their NHL stints, however they’re nonetheless younger. Both goaltenders are simply 23 years outdated, and whereas it’s laborious to say whether or not both will play a job when the Blackhawks grow to be aggressive, conserving them with the IceHogs will permit them to get significant minutes whereas the rebuild continues. That’s not to say neither might contribute on the NHL degree, however extra growth ought to make them extra NHL-ready once they take the full-time bounce.
With Petr Mrázek possible staying round, the Blackhawks ought to take into account rolling with the Mrázek/Stalock tandem once more in 2023-24 whereas signing the previous for a possible commerce. Then, if Stalock goes, Söderblom and Stauber can have gained sufficient growth that both may very well be a stable backup to Mrázek for the remainder of the season. Again, as a lot as each goalies have impressed throughout their quick time within the NHL, the Blackhawks are possible to endure numerous dropping subsequent season. That wouldn’t be nice for both one’s confidence.
If the Blackhawks let Stalock go, it wouldn’t essentially be a foul factor. Both Söderblom and Stauber have sufficient NHL expertise that both one might fill the backup position. Like Mrázek, the membership might additionally tackle one other unhealthy contract or signal one other UFA. However, Stalock’s clearly loved his time in Chicago, which you don’t at all times see from gamers on a rebuilding workforce.
Stalock is much from excellent, however he’s emerged as a significant optimistic. Extending him may very well be a win-win for each events; he might proceed setting the appropriate tone within the locker room whereas doubtlessly elevating his commerce worth. With the Blackhawks nonetheless within the early phases of the rebuild, they don’t have anything to lose by bringing him again.