Blackhawks seek right mix for title defence
Salary cap issues will force GM Bowman to alter championship roster
A day after they celebrated their Stanley Cup victory with a massive parade, the Chicago Blackhawks were still giddy from the experience Saturday. But they also know that changes are ahead this summer.
General manager Stan Bowman said the team's core would remain intact, but that the roster will be altered because of salary cap issues.
"We've got a good group here. We're going to do our best to make sure that we have the right mix for next season," Bowman said Saturday.
"We'll do that. We'll get it done. We'd love to have everybody back, and that's just not a possibility, so we've got to move on."
One position that will be addressed is goaltender. Starter Antti Niemi, who went 16-6 in the playoffs, made just under $827,000 US this year and is a restricted free agent.
"Yes, he's certainly going to get a raise from where he was at last year. But that happens to everybody when you have a good team and you have a good season. That's not the focus so much. I'm just happy that he performed the way he did," Bowman said.
Chicago's backup is Cristobal Huet, who just completed the second year of a $22.45-million, four-year contract.
"We're going to have to straighten that out. Obviously, the goaltending is a situation we're going to have to look at and figure something out," Bowman said. "But we're going to work on that. We'll get it straightened out by October."
The team's core includes young stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who signed $31.5-million, five-year contract extensions in December on the same day star defenceman Duncan Keith got a $72-million, 13-year deal.
Marian Hossa, who finally became a Stanley Cup winner on his third straight trip to the finals with a different team, signed a $62.8-million, 12-year deal last season.
In addition to Niemi, Niklas Hjalmarrson, Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager are among the key restricted free agents.
Ladd missed the first three games of the finals and then returned for the final three while playing with a fractured shoulder and torn ligaments. He earned his second Stanley Cup, having also won one with Carolina in 2006.
"I'm sure everybody wants to stay here," Ladd said Saturday, adding he certainly did but realized that the game is also a business.
The unrestricted free agent list includes veteran John Madden, a key penalty killer who has now been on three Stanley Cup winners, and Adam Burish.
Madden also acknowledged that his first season with the Blackhawks might be his only one, but at age 37 said he plans to be playing somewhere next season.
"I'd love to come back but who knows what will happen?" he said. "There are going to be a lot of changes because of cap issues."
Bowman also confirmed Toews will receive a $1.3 million bonus for winning the Conn Smith Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.
Bowman said he wasn't sure if former general manager Dale Tallon, who shaped the team with his trades, draft picks and free agent signings, would get his name on the Stanley Cup or receive a ring from the team. Tallon, demoted last summer, is now the GM of the Florida Panthers after nearly four decades with the Blackhawks in a variety of roles.
"I'm not sure how that's going to work out," Bowman said. "But I'm certainly open to any of that stuff. He's been a big part of it."
The Blackhawks were signing souvenirs in the hallway near their dressing room Saturday and they're recovering from their non-stop party that began Wednesday night when Kane scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Flyers to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup since 1961.
Centre Patrick Sharp estimated he'd had more sleep than most of his teammates over the past three days -- about six hours.
Keith, who lost seven teeth in the clincher of the Western Conference finals against San Jose, had jokingly made a plea for a dentist when he addressed the crowd Friday. He said he's slated to get some new teeth next week.
And it goes on. The Blackhawks will haul the Stanley Cup to Wrigley Field for Sunday night's White Sox-Cubs game and then Kane, Toews, Keith and Brent Seabrook will take it to California where it will appear on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on Monday.
The Blackhawks are enjoying every minute, knowing that the team will have a bit of a different look when it heads to training camp in September.
"We try not to think about it, but obviously it's in the back of your mind," Seabrook said.