The Chicago Blackhawks’ future in net has been a point of discussion for some time now. It began with the signing of Robin Lehner last summer as a free agent and continues into this summer with the NHL Draft looming and long-standing starter Corey Crawford‘s contract coming to an end. The picture of the goaltending position became a little more clear on Thursday morning as The Athletic’s Scott Powers reported that the Blackhawks organization would not be moving forward with goaltending prospects Wouter Peeters and Alexis Gravel on entry-level contracts.
The news for letting Peeters’ rights expire comes with far less surprise than letting Gravel go. Peeters was a third-round pick by the Blackhawks in 2016, but fizzled out of the USHL after little more than one season, returning to Europe and playing last season with Guildford in the EIHL in the U.K.
As for Gravel, the former 2018 sixth-round pick by Chicago had a successful career in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads over the past four years. He appeared in 178 games for the Mooseheads, with a career 3.29 GAA and a .898 save percentage. His best season came two years ago during the 2018-19 campaign, leading the Mooseheads to the QMJHL President’s Cup Final and the CHL Memorial Cup Final, being named to the Memorial Cup tournament’s All-Star team and being named the Memorial Cup tournament’s Most Outstanding Goaltender.
Coming off injury this season, Gravel had a down year from his 2018-19 season, but his body of work still felt promising for the 20-year old to get a shot within the Blackhawks organization. Less than two weeks ago, Gravel posted on a photo on his social media wearing a Blackhawks hat.
First fish of the summer 🤘🏻 pic.twitter.com/LemOs8NH2g
— Alexis Gravel (@alexis_grave1) May 10, 2020
Now, according to the report, both Gravel and Peeters will see their draft rights expire with Chicago on June 1, making them free agents.
The Blackhawks are left with goaltenders Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban at the NHL level, with both having contracts expiring this summer. At the AHL level, Collin Delia, Matt Tomkins, and Kevin Lankinen all played with the Rockford IceHogs this past season and all are on the books for 2020-21, with Delia and Lankinen having contracts through the 2021-22 season.
Chicago still holds the rights to Russian goaltender Ivan Nalimov, who signed a PTO with the IceHogs late this past season, but never played in a game, and to 2019 sixth-round draft pick Dominic Basse, who played last season in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms and is expected to play in the USHL again next season before heading to Colorado College.
It is probable that the Blackhawks will draft another goaltender in this year’s Entry Draft, potentially with their first-round pick as Russian goaltender Yaroslav Askarov is projected to be available when Chicago is on the clock. Granted, draft position is still not locked in yet, but as it currently stands Askarov will likely be available around picks eight, nine, and ten in the first round.