Blackhawks

Wirtz confident in Bowman's ability to keep Blackhawks on top

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Wirtz confident in Bowman's ability to keep Blackhawks on top

TAMPA, Fla. – Rocky Wirtz was all smiles prior to Game 1 on Wednesday night.

Why wouldn’t he be? The Blackhawks owner was about to watch his team participate in its third Stanley Cup Final in the past six seasons. Much like with the previous two, offseason salary-cap-related questions loom. Players will have to go. A rebuild of some sort will have to be done.

It’s something that concerns him, no?

“Well, if we’ve done our homework, no,” Wirtz said. “Stan and his folks have done the homework.”

General manager Stan Bowman has had to do some creative cap work the past few seasons, most notably and most devastatingly out of the 2010 Cup victory. He’ll have to do it again entering the 2015-16 season, when the salary cap is likely to hover around $71 million. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s contracts kick in and Brandon Saad is a priority to sign. Some players will have to go; others, who are entering free-agent status, won’t be re-signed. But Wirtz doesn’t doubt that Bowman will figure it out.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

“They have plenty of scenarios because we don’t know what the cap is going to be. It could be a $500,000 difference, up or down. It’s not like he’s going to wake up in the middle of June and say, ‘Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?’ He’s been working this since training camp,” Wirtz said. “So I’m not worried because I have complete faith in the process they go to.”

Bowman talked Monday of how changes are always afoot. But a loss in one area has always meant a gain in the other.

“I think there’s a lot of ways to look at that. If you look at it from a positive, you’re going to have some new blood. You’re going to have some guys that weren’t part of this. This is a great experience for our players,” Bowman said. “For the guys that are new to our team in the future, they’re going to want to get to this point themselves. So you have that new blood in the system going forward.”

The Blackhawks have benefited from that new blood in past postseasons. Saad and Andrew Shaw, 2011 draftees, broke though during the 2013 regular season/Cup run. Teuvo Teravainen, whom the Blackhawks drafted in 2012, is having a memorable postseason right now, adding a goal and an assist in the team’s 2-1 victory over Tampa on Wednesday night.

[RELATED - Teravainen making big impact as confidence grows]

Bottom line: every team’s dealing with it but very few, like the Blackhawks, are finding enough solutions to get to conference and Cup finals often.

“It’s a challenge. The salary cap, it’s a system we all play under. We’ve been through it before. There are changes to be made to every team and we’re no different. We certainly have expectations that we want to keep this going,” Bowman said. “The main players are going to be back. You have to rely on some young guys to step into bigger roles.”

Some of Bowman’s moves have been laudable. Others have been questionable. Having the core this team has certainly helps but it’s also about finding the right pieces to surround it, either through free agency or drafting and developing.

Ultimately, the Blackhawks have had more hits than misses. They wouldn’t be at their third Stanley Cup Final in the past six seasons if that were the other way around.

“It’s a credit to the organization,” Wirtz said. “We’re quite proud of the job they’ve done and the nucleus of the team, that’s something we’re excited about.”

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

Uncap those markers and start circling your calendars, Blackhawks fans. The 2018-19 season is officially out.

The Blackhawks will kick off their 91st campaign in franchise history with a road contest against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The home opener is set for Oct. 7, with an Original Six matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m.

The Blackhawks have 14 back-to-back games, and the longest road trip of the season is three, which takes place five times over the course of the season; the longest homestand is four games, from Dec. 12-18.

The biggest highlight of the season will be the Original Six Winter Classic Showdown between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the sixth outdoor appearance for Chicago, and fourth in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks will also square off with the defending champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., and welcome them to Chicago on Jan. 20, set for NBC's Game of the Week at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a look at the full schedule:

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that the team expects goalie Corey Crawford to be back next season around training camp. Bowman also mentioned that Crawford might speak about his status himself during the Blackhawks Convention.

“What I said at the end of the year was still the case now, which is we expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”

According to Bowman, Blackhawks players, including Crawford, already have their eyes set on next season.

“At this point in the summer, all the players are preparing for next season,” Bowman said. “Corey’s in that same preparation mode.”

Crawford is nursing what has been labeled an upper-body injury by the team. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was put on the shelf for the rest of the season back in late December, and he has not seen the ice since he skated in a February practice.

“Nothing has changed,” Bowman said. “We expect him to be back and ready to go in training camp.”

The Blackhawks have chosen to keep any groundbreaking news with Crawford under wraps, which the organization has done with other player injuries in the past. Bowman spoke about his vagueness in this situation.

“We’ve never gone into specifics about injuries,” Bowman said. “I realize this probably gets more attention because he’s our starting goalie and he won the Stanley Cup.”

Fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach, because it is unlikely that there will be a significant update regarding Crawford’s health before the season gets closer to its start.

Last season, Crawford only appeared in 28 games, posting a record of 16-9 with 782 saves before going down for the rest of the year.