Bowman offers no timetable as Blackhawks stand pat at draft

SHARE Bowman offers no timetable as Blackhawks stand pat at draft

Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman still don’t know what their roster will look like next season. (Getty Images)

SUNRISE, Fla. — Patrick Sharp is still a member of the Blackhawks. So is Bryan Bickell. Brandon Saad still needs a contract. So does Marcus Kruger. Brad Richards is still in limbo. So is Johnny Oduya.

The NHL Draft typically features a flurry of deals and signings, offering clarity entering the summer and the next season. But while the Hawks restocked their depth chart with size and skill through seven selections, the immediate future is every bit as muddled as it was entering the weekend in South Florida.

The hockey world expected fireworks from Chicago. All it got was a dud.

“Just keep working at it,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “We don’t put a timetable on it. When the deals are there, they’re there.”

The next big date on the calendar is Wednesday, when free agency opens. The Hawks’ hope is that they’ll have some leverage once teams strike out on any big free agents. Toronto and St. Louis appear to have the same mind-set with Phil Kessel and T.J. Oshie, respectively. Bowman believed he laid the groundwork for trades this weekend, but cautioned that “until a deal’s done, it’s not done.”

“The way the market works is you’ve got a few [free agents], and there’s a lot of bidders, and [the players] are usually looking for long terms and big dollars,” Bowman said. “The players that might be [traded] are on shorter terms than that. So at that point, teams start to say, oh, well, I don’t know if I want to sign a guy to a five- or six-year contract. I might look at players on shorter terms. They become more attractive at that time. That’s all stuff that can happen, but we’re not there yet.”

A source said that the Hawks feel “no sense of urgency” with Sharp, and are willing to play a long game before what seems like an inevitable trade. It’s even possible — albeit unlikely — that this saga drags out all the way until training camp. Teams are allowed to be 10 percent over the cap in the summer, and don’t have to get under the cap until the season-opener. Last summer, the Hawks knew they had to move either Oduya or Nick Leddy to be cap-compliant, and they waited until after the preseason finale to ship Leddy to the New York Islanders, just in case a team got desperate after a poor showing in camp or because of an injury.

“You’ve got to be cap-compliant, but there’s a lot of ways to do that,” Bowman said. “We don’t have to do it at any specific time, other than prior to the season.”

The trade talk will continue and the rumors will keep swirling — Pittsburgh, Montreal, Washington and Florida continue to be the front-runners — but after focusing on the distant future this weekend, the next priority for the Hawks is re-signing Saad and Kruger, both of whom are restricted free agents. Bowman has had preliminary talks with their agents, but nothing is imminent.

Those two contracts are just some of the moving parts Bowman is dealing with this summer. Locking up those two (and fellow RFA David Rundblad) will give him a better idea of how much salary he needs to shed, and how much he can accomplish in free agency. And if he doesn’t do it by Wednesday, pending unrestricted free agents such as Richards and Oduya already could be gone.

“They need to decide where they’re going to go, dollar-wise, and we need to figure out what we can possibly offer,” Bowman said. “There’s a lot of factors at play. You don’t rule anything in or out at this point. You’ve just got to keep working on it.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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