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updated: 7/1/2011 2:59 AM

Hawks focused on finding role players

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  • Defenseman Steve Montador, right, shown playing for the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, will join the Blackhawks this season.

      Defenseman Steve Montador, right, shown playing for the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, will join the Blackhawks this season.
    Associated Press file photo


Unless general manager Stan Bowman had a change of heart overnight, the Blackhawks will not be one of the teams bidding for prized center Brad Richards when NHL free agency begins today.

While Richards is easily the best free agent available -- and the Hawks have pulled off a July 1 shocker before when they signed Marian Hossa in 2009 -- Bowman said he would stick to his plan of looking for players that bring more jam and physicality.

"We're looking for a certain style of player," Bowman said Thursday. "We're trying to get a little different kind of player in our mix here and I think it's a good group for that.

"We have a list of players that we like in different scenarios. We won't go after players that get huge long-term, big money contracts because that doesn't fit what we're trying to do."

Signing free-agent defenseman Steve Montador was a good place to start. Montador, whose negotiating rights were acquired late Wednesday night from Buffalo, reportedly agreed to a four-year, $11 million contract with the Hawks on Thursday.

"He's the style of defenseman we've been lacking here," Bowman said. "He brings a little bit of physicality, grit and character to the team. Plus, he is a right-handed shot, which is really at a premium these days. We really like the fact he can play that side."

The 31-year-old Montador was a plus-16 for the Sabres last season with 21 assists, 136 blocked shots and 86 penalty minutes while averaging almost 20 minutes a game. He's also considered a strong penalty killer.

"In a lot of ways he's just coming into his own right now," Bowman said. "He's improved the last three years each season. He's a player we've had a lot of interest in and actually tried to acquire at the trade deadline."

Those forwards the Hawks are believed to have their sights set on in free agency are Nashville's Joel Ward, Pittsburgh's Mike Rupp and Maxime Talbot, Washington's Matt Bradley and Carolina's Erik Cole.

Cole, a 26-goal scorer, could play in the Hawks' top-six at forward, as could Ward.

"We're going to look for somebody who can play in our top six, but a player who can play in your top six doesn't necessarily mean he's going to make huge dollars," Bowman said. "We're looking for players that fit that role. There are certain players we have in mind that we think can play with our top guys."

Even after adding Montador, Bowman said he still might look at the free-agent defensemen available, possibly with an eye to Brent Sopel.

"Defense is a position you never have enough of," Bowman said. "We've got some kids we like -- Ryan Stanton, Shawn Lalonde and Dylan Olsen -- but you don't want to put them in before they're ready. Maybe they are ready, but you've still got to look at what's in free agency."

The Hawks have about $11.2 million in cap space after signing Montador, but Bowman said he doesn't expect to spend all of it right now.

"Our goal is not to spend every penny we have in the summertime, but you're not quite sure how it's going to fall until you get there," he said. "In a perfect world we'd like to leave ourselves some breathing room either for injuries or for player trades during the season."

Bowman still must use part of his available money to re-sign his own restricted free agents, Michael Frolik, Chris Campoli and Viktor Stalberg.

"We've had discussions, but we're still in the early stages," Bowman said. "We'll keep at it. It could take a day or two, or could stretch on a bit longer."

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