LAS VEGAS —Stan Bowman’s doing plenty of talking these days. Just not in public.
While some other general managers around the league are openly getting into specifics about player negotiations and trade discussions, Bowman, as always, is keeping things close to the vest. But behind closed doors, on that cell phone that sometimes seems permanently affixed to his ear, he’s been talking almost non-stop.
The first round of the NHL draft is on Friday night, and Bowman is expected to trade Patrick Sharp, and possibly others, by then.
“It’s still early,” Bowman demurred on Wednesday. “Those things typically heat up as you get closer and closer to the draft. I would characterize it as a typical time of year. There’s a lot of talk among all the GMs, most of which doesn’t really go anywhere. Sometimes, things will play our and you can make a deal.”
With a $71.4 million salary cap next season, Bowman needs to shed salary to re-sign Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger and David Rundblad. Sharp, with his $5.9 million cap hit, is the biggest name on the block. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars are among at least eight interested teams. Dallas — an up-and-coming division rival — is a particularly intriguing possibility. Two sources said that the Blackhawks would want 25-year-old agitator Antoine Roussel and his cap-friendly $2-million salary as part of a potential deal.
Bryan Bickell is also a candidate to be moved, as is Kris Versteeg.
Bowman, naturally, wouldn’t say if there are teams he wouldn’t trade with.
“Part of your job is to find out what the best value is and what makes the most sense,” he said. “When we do that, we’ll ultimately make the move based on a number of factors. Hard to answer that in a vacuum. It’s more hypothetical at this point.”
Every year for the Hawks, the suspense at draft time isn’t who they’ll pick, but what deals they’ll make. The Hawks usually pick late in the first round, and as of now, don’t even have a first-round pick this year (they traded it to Arizona for Antoine Vermette). But while the big moves are likely to happen soon, the Hawks don’t have to be all the way under the cap until the season opener on Oct. 7. Last fall, Nick Leddy wasn’t traded away until after the preseason finale in New York.
So while Bowman seems convinced that Saad, Kruger and even Rundblad will be back no matter what, the suspense could last all summer. One thing the Hawks aren’t lacking is suitors. It’s just a matter of what the asking price will be.
And Bowman’s not telling.
“That’s one thing we’ve had a lot of, is players who have been around a winning environment,” he said. “In my discussions, people understand it’s nice to bring players in that have been part of a winning culture. That’s something that’s been a common theme in some of my discussions. You keep talking and working through it. There’s still a lot more discussions I’m sure we’ll have. But at this point, things are going along well.”