The NHL's biggest shopping day of the year arrives Tuesday and Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is set to browse without much money in his pockets.
With the Hawks perilously close to the upper limit of the $69 million salary cap with some work yet to do in assembling the 2014-15 roster, Bowman is seemingly handcuffed as free agency begins at 11 a.m.
However, that doesn't mean Bowman and the Hawks are destined to be limited to window shopping as they are only a trade away from clearing more cap space and going after a player or two they believe can solidify a talented roster.
Unlike previous seasons, teams and potential free agents were allowed to discuss parameters for deals, though not specific terms, in the week leading up to free agency. Bowman said he took advantage of that and may have provided some groundwork for Tuesday.
"It's my job to call and see what the options are," Bowman said. "I've made contact with a number of people and we'll see where it goes."
Bowman said there were "a fair number of trade talks" during the NHL draft over the weekend and if something comes to fruition from those, the Hawks could dip into the free-agent pool.
"We've got some ideas," he added. "We have several different possibilities that we're going to pursue. I think every team has the same game plan where they have some ideas of players they want to add or things they want to do."
The Hawks remain in the market for a No. 2 center. They came close to trading for Ryan Kesler last week before the Canucks dealt the veteran to the Ducks. There are not a plethora of centers available, with the Avalanche's Paul Stastny the marquee name, but he is likely to command at least $6 million per season. Other pricey options include Brad Richards and Mikhail Grabovski, but to land any of those three would require the Hawks to make a significant trade or two to create cap space. Cheaper alternatives include Saku Koivu, Olli Jokinen and Marcel Goc for the short term until the Hawks believe Teuvo Teravainen is ready to take the reins on the second line.
"Every year there are players that are useful and helpful in certain ways, and that's the way we're looking at it," Bowman said. "We have a specific idea of what we're looking for, but we'll see if it comes to be."
The Hawks may make the biggest splash of all just by re-signing two of their own. Tuesday is the first day the team can finalize contract extensions for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane that will kick in for the 2015-16 season. The announcement of those deals — expected to be for at least $10 million per season apiece — will come sooner than later as the Hawks do not want to delay locking in the cornerstones of the franchise.
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