Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman told CBS Sports' Chris Peters on June 18 he's hoping to keep the core of his team intact. The Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final in six games to win their third title in six seasons.
The Chicago Blackhawks are hoping to keep their core nucleus intact for the foreseeable future.
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This was what Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman told CBS Sports' Chris Peters on June 18:
"I certainly hope so. There's a lot of questions we have to answer over the next 10 days.
"We're going to do our best. We'd like to have some stability. That's been a hallmark over the years. A lot of our key players are back. There are some variables we haven't locked down yet, but it's too early to tell."
Peters says one of Bowman's priorities this offseason is keeping free-agent left wing Brandon Saad. The Chicago GM said he's pretty confident he can lock Saad up to a new deal:
"Brandon's grown as a player and we want him to continue to grow and take on a bigger role next year," Bowman told CBS Sports. "He's going to be a big part of our group for many years. We'll make it work."
The Blackhawks face a challenging salary-cap situation in 2015-16 as both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are going to be paid $10.5 million each. If Saad signs an offer sheet from another team and Chicago chooses to match it, the situation will become even trickier,per NHL.com's Brian Hedger.
Looking at the bigger and long-term picture, seven Blackhawks players who have been instrumental in the team's last three Stanley Cup victories account for $47.6 million of salary-cap space in 2015-16. At least one of them could sign with another team next season, per CBS Sports.
Arpon Basu of the Blackhawks' official website wrote on Thursday some of the more prominent players which could be moved are Patrick Sharp ($5.9 million salary-cap charge for 2015-16) , Bryan Bickell ($4 million) and Kris Versteeg ($4.4 million).
Other Blackhawks veterans who will become unrestricted free agents are Johnny Oduya, Brad Richards, Michal Rozsival and Daniel Carcillo, per the Blackhawks' official website.
Bowman also spoke about goaltender Corey Crawford's status for 2015-16. Crawford, who is due $6 million next season, will likely return with backup Scott Darling, per Basu:
"It's one thing to have good stats and be a good goalie, but what happens when the pressure's on? (Crawford) has been able to raise his game in those moments. That's who I want on my side.
"We're excited to have two great goalies. I love our goaltending. I think that's going to be the strength of our team."
The salary cap for next season has not been officially established, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hinted it could be somewhere in the $71 million range, per Peters.
With this, Hedger says Bowman considers Saad as "a cornerstone player for future championship runs." Bowman reiterated to Hedger what the told Peters: He's confident Saad will be a Blackhawk next season.
"I have a lot of confidence in that, in terms of bringing a player like Brandon back," Bowman told NHL.com. "He's going to be a big part of our group for many years to come. We'll make it work. Those things aren't of concern to me."
For his part, Saad told Hedger on Thursday he's inclined to stay in Chicago rather than player for other teams, including his hometown Pittsburgh Penguins:
"It's about winning, and we have a tight group here. I'm close with a lot of the guys. It's fun out there on the ice and off the ice, so the goal is to be in Chicago.
"I was obviously a fan of Pittsburgh growing up there, and they had some good teams and good players come along. But to play in the NHL is the goal and to win, and I couldn't be happier in Chicago."
Wherever Saad ends up next season, Peters predicts he will receive a substantial pay raise considering he already has two Stanley Cup titles at the age of 22. He had the best season of his career in 2014-15, where he registered 23 goals and 29 assists for 52 points.
Aside from Saad, other Blackhawks players with expiring contracts include Marcus Kruger, Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins, per Peters.
The CBS Sports update says Bowman could make some changes, even possibly adding new players who haven't won a Stanley Cup title. Among the prime candidates are free agents who were signed to entry-level contracts such as Kyle Baun and Artemy Panarin.
Peters stresses players like them can help Chicago ease its impending salary-cap dilemma.
Bowman assured Basu there will definitely be changes for the Blackhawks:
"Nobody brings back the same exact team. There's a lot of things we haven't quite locked down yet. We don't know what the salary-cap number is. That's going to be part of it. That's going to be released over the next 10 days, probably.
"We're going to do our best to keep the guys that we can. I wouldn't rule anything out yet, but obviously there will be some changes."
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