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Blackhawks’ Stan Bowman on sexual-assault investigation: ‘We have to let the process play itself out’

The Blackhawks’ general manager spoke Thursday for the first time since two lawsuits were filed against his team, dancing around that subject but outlining his plans for the NHL offseason.

General manager Stan Bowman spoke to the media Thursday for the first time this summer.
Annie Rice/AP file photo

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman broke his silence but gave little new concrete information about the team’s sexual assault cover-up investigation in a press conference Thursday.

“I do not condone or tolerate harassment or assault of any type,” Bowman said. “[But] we need to give the experts [investigating this] the necessary time and the latitude to do their job well.

“I am eager to speak about this in more detail in the future, but for now I have to respect the pending litigation and the independent review that’s underway. I’m not going to be able to make any comments about that at this time. We have to let the process play itself out.”

Since June 28, Chicago law firm Jenner & Block has been investigating allegations that former video coach Bradley Aldrich sexually assaulted two Hawks players during the 2010 playoffs, that management at the time — including Bowman — refused to report the incident to police and that the Hawks positively recommended Aldrich to future employers, allowing him to assault a 16-year-old Michigan high school student three years later.

The two lawsuits against the Hawks in Cook County Circuit Court regarding those incidents have not had any new updates since the Hawks filed motions to dismiss weeks ago.

Bowman said he will participate in Jenner & Block’s investigation but dodged the subject of whether the investigation’s results will be made public, a clarification the Hawks and NHL have repeatedly avoided providing over the past month.

“I’m going to give it my full cooperation,” he said. “As far as where it goes, that’s not something that I can comment on. But I do know that we have some experts that we brought in. From my understanding, these are well-respected people in the legal community.”

Former coach Joel Quenneville has also said he will cooperate in the investigation but denied he knew about the allegations until this year. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was a Hawks assistant GM in 2010, said in a Thursday statement he had “no knowledge of any allegations involving Mr. Aldrich.”

Bowman declined comment in response to a question if an alleged May 2010 meeting in which former skills coach Paul Vincent told Bowman, then-president John McDonough and other Hawks executives about Aldrich’s actions occurred.

Bowman insisted the situation isn’t affecting his day-to-day job, even with his future Hawks employment seemingly resting on the results of the investigation and lawsuits.

“There’s a lot going on,” he said. “There’s no question about that. But I have a job to do here, and that is to build our team as best I can.”

Toews, Nylander updates

Alex Nylander, after missing all of last season recovering from knee surgery, is already 100% healthy and will be at training camp in September.

“He’s training and preparing like normal,” Bowman said. “He’ll be ready.”

But Jonathan Toews — despite explaining in June that he missed last season while suffering from an obscure condition called Chronic Immune Response Syndrome — is a different story.

Bowman said he and Toews had a meeting Tuesday and see each other daily when Toews comes into Fifth Third Arena to train. But there’s no definitive info on whether or not Toews will be ready for camp.

“It was good just to catch up on things and learn what he’s been through,” Bowman said. “We don’t know, and Johnny doesn’t know, how he’s going to feel. None of us have a crystal ball to know how he’ll feel in September... We’ll just take that as it comes, though. We don’t have to put any pressure on him being ready for a certain date.”

Trade, free agency updates

The expansion draft outcome keeps getting better and better for the Hawks.

Not only did they lose a meaningless player in John Quenneville — a minor-league forward who “didn’t really impact us at all,” Bowman said — but the Kraken’s picks from other teams also opened new trade options for the Hawks.

“Some teams did lose a player maybe they didn’t want to or weren’t expecting to [lose], and they’re having to shift their focus,” Bowman said. “So we’re getting some phone calls on the inbound side, [with teams] trying to check around to see if they can find a match for a player they lost.”

With the entry draft occurring Friday and Saturday and unrestricted free agency starting next Wednesday, Bowman is entering the busiest time on his calendar.

After moving Duncan Keith’s contract, the Hawks have a sizable $10.4 million in salary cap space right now (per CapFriendly), and they could double that if need be by placing Brent Seabrook and/or Andrew Shaw’s contracts on long-term injured reserve.

“[The Keith trade] put us in position here, leading into free agency, where we’re going to be able to pursue some players if it works out,” Bowman said. “We also are having some trade conversations.”

Bowman briefly mentioned the possibility of movement among the forward and goaltender groups, but the defensive side seems like his biggest focus. The rumor mill continues to churn regarding the Hawks’ pursuits of Seth Jones and Dougie Hamilton, and Bowman didn’t exactly shoot those rumors down Thursday.

“If you have a chance to acquire a No. 1 defenseman, you have to look into it, whether it’s through free agency or through trade,” he said. “There aren’t 32 No. 1 defensemen in the league. I was looking at this yesterday. There’s probably 10 to 15, maybe...so it’s a very small supply of those and they don’t come available too often. If they do, you have to investigate: could it work?”