Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman had just wrapped up the team’s selections at the NHL Draft on Saturday when he started talking about what was next on the agenda.
“It’s a very busy time. Really, up until the end of July it’s real busy,” Bowman said. “Our roster will start to take shape. There aren’t a ton of holes but there are some things we’re going to look to try and make headway on over the next 10 days to two weeks.”
The Blackhawks spent Saturday selecting nine players at the NHL draft. Bowman has long talked drafting and developing and the Blackhawks have to get back to that. In trying to win as much as they can now they’ve sacrificed a lot of youth, be it those who already proved themselves at this level or those who were on the cusp of doing so.
But this is where the Blackhawks are right now, so they’ll look at what they can do now.
The Blackhawks already re-signed Richard Panik and Dennis Rasmussen, and Bowman said they’ll probably ink a few more of their unrestricted free agents soon. Bowman had talks regarding some players on Saturday.
“It’s probably early to make a prediction on where we’re going to go but we have a pretty good idea of where things will end up. Probably won’t be too long, you guys will be figuring out who we’re signing,” Bowman said with a grin.
So what else? Oh, the defense. The Blackhawks’ defense isn’t a mess but the depth isn’t what it was two seasons ago. Trevor van Riemsdyk and Erik Gustafsson will be a year older and should benefit from their play from last season. Ville Pokka and Gustav Forsling are young guys in the system. The Blackhawks also signed Michal Kempny this offseason, and he could have a good shot of making the roster.
“I think [Kempny], we’re looking forward to seeing how he does.. I think he can come in and hopefully he can help us right off the bat,” coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday. “We’ll see on the free agents and how that market looks out. We know that looking at the top end and certainly we’ll definitely do whatever we can to get some depth and some quality if we can.”
The Blackhawks have young defenseman but Bowman said they could acquire a seasoned one.
“We do have a lot of young guys who are in the mix for that. I wouldn’t rule out a veteran defenseman. But we don’t have anything to announce right now,” Bowman said. “We’ll have discussions as we go along here.”
The draft is done but the Blackhawks still have work to do. They’ve parted with another would-be core player in Andrew Shaw, but the roster subtraction should be done – Bowman said following Shaw’s trade that the team no longer has a salary-cap problem. But they have a bit of a depth problem, and they’ll need to do things over the next few weeks to make it less of an issue come September.