So far, it’s quiet out there.
Yes the league’s general managers, including the Blackhawks’ Stan Bowman, are talking. The Blackhawks will be sellers, and considering the winning pedigree of players they’ll likely be dangling, there will be buyers.
When the dominos start falling, however, remains to be seen.
Bowman said that trade talk has been “typical” for this time of year, but he expects the chatter to increase as we approach the NHL Draft, which begins on Friday in Sunrise, Fla. It promises to be an active time for the Blackhawks. They already have $64 million committed to 14 players and have to shed salary to sign others (Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger) and hit the $71.4 million salary cap set for this coming season.
Patrick Sharp is most likely headed elsewhere. Bryan Bickell could be gone, too. Bowman wasn’t getting into specifics on who was leaving or how talks were going on any trades, but he said the Blackhawks have plans.
“We’ve been preparing some scenarios, some lower, some higher [than the announced cap number.] This was one,” Bowman said via conference call on Wednesday. “We have a lot of plans we’ve been thinking of at that number. It’s not something that’s good or bad; it’s something we’ve been preparing for. We’re just going to move forward now.”
When does the moving forward begin? The Blackhawks could start making deals prior to the draft, especially if they want to add picks. They currently have seven, but their first isn’t until later in the second round – No. 54 overall, their compensatory pick for not signing Kevin Hayes. Bowman said the Blackhawks are always looking to get more selections heading into the draft, and this year is no different.
“If we can acquire additional picks, which we’ve been able to do in previous years, that’d be great. If not, we still have seven picks and we’ll make our decisions and hopefully add some players we’re really excited about,” Bowman said. “It’s really the same procedure as in previous years: we’re always trying to acquire additional draft picks. It comes down to whether there’s a fit to do that or not.”
That fit extends to any trade packages the Blackhawks accept, too. Of those players the Blackhawks are likely to part with, Sharp should draw considerable interest. He may not be coming off his greatest individual season but he’s had plenty of great ones and he’s a three-time Stanley Cup winner. Sharp has been part of a core that knows how to win; and for teams that are trying to achieve what the Blackhawks have, acquiring a player with that pedigree is enticing.
“Each team is unique in terms of what [its] needs are at certain positions and where they’re at. Some teams are looking for players to step in and help immediately and take a step as an organization. Others are rebuilding or looking for experience and winning. That’s what we’ve had a lot of, players who have been in a winning environment,” Bowman said. “People understand it’s nice to bring players in who have been part of winning cultures. That’s something that’s been a common theme in some of my discussions. You keep working through it. There are still a lot more discussions to have but at this point, things are going along well.”
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The upcoming changes are coming for the Blackhawks, whether anyone wants them or not. Bowman, however, is optimistic about the immediate and long-term future. It’s not hard to see why: despite all the changes the Blackhawks have gone through since the summer of 2010, they’ve still won two more Cups since then. The Blackhawks have found ways to adjust and keep winning in the salary-cap world. They believe they can do that again.
“There’s so much talk about players leaving but I’m excited about next year,” Bowman said. “We’re going to have a lot of the main pieces back. We’ve got guys ready for bigger roles and some exciting new faces coming to the organization. This is an exciting part of the year to find the future Blackhawks. There’s lot to be optimistic and excited about next year and the years to come.”