SUNRISE, Fla. — For teams with first-round selections, it was an active night. Some hoped they found players to help rebuild their teams while others selected those they hope are part of current success.
But for the Blackhawks, who have to do some dismantling at some point, it was very quiet.
General manager Stan Bowman said he had “a lot of talks” but nothing came to fruition in the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night. The Blackhawks obviously have to part with a player or two — or more — to get under the $71.4 million cap that’s set for the 2015-16 season. They also want to re-sign Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger. But when the first round wrapped on Friday, the Blackhawks stood pat.
“I really didn’t have expectations,” Bowman said of Day 1. “Things come up sometimes. We had a lot of talks and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But we’re looking to tomorrow and we’ve got a number of picks and we’re going to do our best.”
Rounds 2-7 begin at 9 a.m. CT on Saturday. The Blackhawks have seven draft picks, beginning with the compensatory pick (54th overall) they received for not signing Kevin Hayes.
While Bowman said the Blackhawks are focused on the draft, there’s no doubt many are watching to see how and when they shed salary. The team currently has more than $64 million committed to 14 players. That’s not counting restricted free agents Saad and Kruger; Bowman said he’s had “good discussions” regarding both players and upcoming deals. But again, the Blackhawks have to clear some cash. Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell are two possibilities to be moved. Both have two years remaining on their current deals; Sharp has a $5.9 million cap hit and Bickell has a $4 million cap hit.
Despite nothing shaking out on Friday, Bowman said he’s not feeling a massive sense of urgency.
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“We have a plan,” Bowman said. “We want to do certain things, but you can’t always force the timing. It takes two to make a deal. We’ve had a lot of good discussions and we’re focused mainly on the draft. If other things come up, that’s fine.”
As we’ve previously written, the Blackhawks’ salary-cap woes are not a secret. Other teams know the situation they’re in and it’s possible the Blackhawks don’t get the return they truly want. Bowman, however, didn’t see it that way.
“If you’re looking to make a deal as a team, you have a lot of self-interest there" he said. "If you can get something that works for you, I don’t know that you’re worried about another team’s situation. Most of us are always trying to do what’s best for our team individually, so I don’t think that’s true.”
There was plenty of first-round action for a lot of teams on Friday. The Blackhawks weren’t among them. They’ve got plenty of work to do outside of those draft selections. Whether or not that current roster work begins tomorrow remains to be seen.