If Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman thinks there is a need to go after a center in the first round of the NHL draft on Friday, he isn't letting his opponents know about it.
Bowman claimed Wednesday the Hawks are not short at center on the organizational depth chart, saying Marcus Kruger, Brandon Pirri and Kevin Hayes all figure prominently in the future.
"There are a number of players that we're very high on in terms of their projection over time, but they're coming in at different stages," Bowman said. "Brandon Pirri is probably the closet of our group as well as Marcus Kruger. He obviously came and played in the playoffs last year and I would expect him to be a contributor on the Blackhawks next year.
"Brandon had an excellent ending to the season, but he's still a kid. Kevin Hayes is a player who will end up being a center and was our top pick last year. There are others, but those three guys are going to figure in our future for sure."
Bowman said the Hawks are not going into this weekend's draft focusing on one particular area of need.
"We don't really have a position we're focusing on," Bowman said. "We're looking to take the player we think is best regardless of position."
The Hawks own the 18th pick in Friday's first round with Bowman admitting he could be looking to trade up or down on the draft floor depending on the players available at that time.
"We're in an interesting spot," Bowman said. "If there are some players we really like and haven't been chosen yet and we suspect won't last to 18, we'll make an effort to jump up there.
"On the flip side if there's a grouping of players that we think are similar, and we could move down a few spots and get an additional pick and get the same guy, then we might look at that."
The Hawks own five of the first 80 selections in what Bowman sees as a deep draft.
"It appears to be a strong draft," he said. "We have a chance to cash in on a strong group this year. We're fortunate to have a number of picks in the first three rounds."
•As for the club's key restricted free agents, Bowman said he still was in talks with the agents for Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik, Chris Campoli, Viktor Stalberg and Jake Dowell.
"We'll focus on that come next week," Bowman said. "We've made some pretty good decisions, but we're not going to be announcing them now. There are going to be changes. We're not going to bring everybody back. You have to bring in some new players and we're going to be looking to do that. We'll find out over the next 10 days here."
Re-signing Frolik could get tricky, especially after the strong way he finished the season in the playoffs. Frolik's cap hit was $1.275, and he might be asking for as much as $2 million.
Campoli's cap hit was $1.4 million, Brouwer's $1.025 million and Stalberg $850,000.
The projected new salary cap of $64 million definitely will help Bowman.
"We're not in a salary-cap crunch that we were in," Bowman said. "We're able to obviously do some different things. We're not as stuck as we were a year ago. We're not trying to deal players to get to the cap; we've got room to add players."
•Bowman confirmed Alexander Salak will be the backup goaltender to Corey Crawford in his first public comments on the subject since Salak signed a two-year contract.
"There comes a point when you have to give these players an opportunity show it," Bowman said. "We're optimistic to give him that chance and see what he can do.
"We've seen it with goaltenders over the last couple of seasons (Antti Niemi and Crawford), that sometimes these guys just need to be given the chance. Look at Corey, he was given the chance and he ran with it.
"We don't need Alexander to come in and be a No. 1 goalie. We just need him to be a solid compliment to Corey."