Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has said it a few times: this Stanley Cup-winning team will undergo some changes. No, nothing like the summer of 2010 will befall this group, but there will be changes nonetheless.
And with the 2013 NHL Draft convening Sunday at 2 p.m. in New Jersey, some of those changes may not be far behind.
The Blackhawks enter the draft with four selections: one in the first-round (30th overall), fourth (121st), fifth (151st), sixth (181st) and seventh (211th). But the draft is also about talks and trades and the Blackhawks will likely be part of much of that.
In Thursday’s season-finale media session, Bowman made it clear that he wants to re-sign defenseman Nick Leddy and he’d very much like to sign Bryan Bickell, too. Bickell’s made no secret that he’d love to stay in Chicago; agent Todd Diamond, via email, said talks between he and the Blackhawks “have been very professional, very positive. Both sides want to get something done.”
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Re-signing those two – and any other restricted or unrestricted free agents the Blackhawks would like to hold onto – requires money. The Blackhawks have to get down to the $64.3 million cap for 2013-14 and still try to fit their desired signees under that. The team pared some of its salary using compliance buyouts on Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz, but a trade is also likely needed. Dave Bolland could be on the block and a source said there are several teams interested in the checking-line center. Talks will be active; now that the Cup run is over, Bowman has time to talk. And listen.
“The hardest part is having conversations with other GMs; you don’t do that when you’re fighting for the Cup. The rest of them have been talking for several weeks. Now we’re coming in at the end,” Bowman said after Thursday's media session. “There have been a lot of conversations over the last day or two. That’ll continue going into Sunday.”
But there’s no doubt Bowman puts plenty of value in the draft. Just a quick look at the Blackhawks roster shows how they’ve built this team through it, from Jonathan Toews to Patrick Kane to Duncan Keith. Their recent work has paid dividends, too. Brandon Saad, who the Blackhawks picked in the second-round of the 2011 NHL Draft, was a key part of the team’s tremendous regular season. Saad earned his own accolades, from a Calder Trophy nomination to being selected to the NHL’s all-rookie team. Andrew Shaw, a fifth-round selection from that same draft, has become the team’s petulant, no-fear third-liner with a solid scoring touch.
The Blackhawks’ road to success has been lined with strong drafts, good pickups and solid re-signings. They’d like to keep taking that road.
“We’ve had some plans in place for a long time,” Bowman said. “We’ve built this team, for the most part, from the draft and adding a few pieces outside it. The core came from drafting and developing. We’d like to continue that process.”