The Chicago Blackhawks drafted goalie Ivan Nalimov in the sixth round in 2014. The 6-foot-4, 209 pound goalie spent the last four seasons in the KHL with Admiral Vladivostok. Nalimov has played pretty well, especially last year where he put up a .942 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average. He asked for the Blackhawks to trade him in June after believing he was no longer in the Blackhawks future plans. Now, he will wait one season, before being brought to the main roster.
As mentioned, Nalimov asked to be traded back in June. However, the Blackhawks talked with Nalimov’s agent, Shumi Babaev, and it has been agreed that Nalimov will spend this season in the KHL, with the Kunlun Red Star, and then be brought to the NHL next year. The Blackhawks were able to keep his rights past the two-year window because of the agreement that Russians can play in the KHL and there draft rights don’t elapse in the NHL. Nalimov will be turning 24 on August 12, keeping him on the young side of goalies, but at about the right age to start playing in bigger games. Nalimov has shown a lot of promise in the KHL and hopes to transfer that to the NHL, but will he get a chance with the Blackhawks.
Currently, the Blackhawks have five goalies. Corey Crawford, who is not going to be going anywhere, anytime soon, but is getting older and may be willing to make way for a younger up and coming goalie. Cam Ward, was just recently signed, but will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and seems to be just a one-year backup goalie. There is also Anton Forsberg and Colin Delia, who are both restricted free agents after this year. There is also another young goalie, Kevin Lankinen, who is signed through 2020. Lankinen has the best chance to become the future goalie at the current state of the roster. There is also prospects, Wouter Peeters and Alexis Gravel, that are in the system that could end up with a spot at some point. This seems like a logjam but three guys will probably be gone next year in Ward, Forsberg, and Delia. This gives Nalimov a spot as a backup in his first season. If he impresses I think Nalimov could end up the starter at some point. There is also the chance he ends up the next Antti Raanta or Antti Niemi, where he starts and plays well enough to get picked up by another team and play for them.
Nalimov may have a long road ahead of him for the next year or so, but if he continues this level of play in the KHL and comes over next year and plays well backing up Crawford, we could see him being our starter of the future come 2020. It will be an interesting story to watch unfold.