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Blackhawks navigating dicey situation with goalie prospect Ivan Nalimov

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Because he was drafted out of Russia, Chicago Blackhawk goalie prospect Ivan Nalimov doesn’t have the same leverage as other prospects. There is no clock on when his rights expire and so, if he never signs his entry-level contract, there isn’t any way that he can negotiate his way out of the organization.

However, after a breakout season in the KHL, Nalimov wants to come to the NHL and is looking at the five goalies under contract as a major roadblock. So he’s asking for a trade that doesn’t make much sense for either side, and it’s the organization’s job now to try to find some common ground.

According to a report from Scott Powers of The Athletic, Nalimov thinks a trade will provide him with a more immediate opportunity. But absent of some NHL team taking the risk of offering him a chance at a starting role or regular NHL time, it’s hard to imagine anybody putting together a trade package that would make sense for Chicago.

The only real options are to keep him against his will — possibly prompting him to simply remain in the KHL for however long it takes — or to convince him that he’s a part of their long-term plans. And he certainly should be.

Nalimov has the size and the mobility to be an NHL goalie and he finally had the production to back that up in 2017-18 with Salavat Yulaev. He emerged as one of the KHL’s top netminders with a .938 save percentage at age 23.

He still has to prove himself to be more consistent, but if hey can get him to sign his entry-level deal it begins the process of allowing him to prove that consistency in an NHL camp and provide him with the chance to earn his way into the Rockford rotation or possibly even to win the backup job.

That’s Nalimov best route into an NHL net, and it accomplishes two things for him. It starts the clock on the organization’s rights to his services, meaning if he still doesn’t want to play for the Blackhawks in a year or two he’ll actually have some leverage to facilitate a move. And then it obviously gives him the chance to realize that NHL dream.

While the Blackhawks do have a number of young options on their roster, who ultimately takes over as the No. 1 when Corey Crawford’s contract runs out after the 2019-20 season is far from settled. Collin Delia did a lot to prove himself as a potential piece of the future at the position this season, but everybody still has a lot to prove to make moving on from Crawford a viable option.

Nalimov can be a part of that solution. But by requesting a trade, he very well may be damaging his chances of being an NHL goaltender at all. Hopefully, both sides can somehow put this thing behind them and amicably get him stateside so Nalimov gets his shot and the Blackhawks can add another potential goalie prospect in a time of need.

Ryan Wooden is a full-time sports writer based in the Chicago suburbs. In addition to co-founding The Chicago Sports Column, he is a weekend editor for BetChicago and covers prep sports in DuPage County for the Daily Herald and Shaw Media. Find him away from the computer (or don't) on some body of water or some golf course somewhere.