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Article updated: 7/1/2013 8:52 PM

Blackhawks' Bowman eager to give prospects their shot

By Tim Sassone

Saying goodbye to Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik wasn't easy for Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, but it was more about what's coming up through the system than holding on to the two veterans for sentimental reasons.

"We've got guys that are knocking on the door to get into the NHL," Bowman told chicagoblackhawks.com. "They've been in our system for two years and probably would be playing on many other teams already.

"That's a good situation for us. We've let them take their time to develop, and we're not rushing them to the NHL. If you look at Brandon Pirri, he led the American Hockey League in scoring as a 21-year-old kid.

"At some point you have to give them a chance to play."

Pirri will come to training camp in September looking to be the Hawks' second-line center.

Bowman also reeled off the names of wingers Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith as guys who could make the jump from the minors next season. Throw defenseman Adam Clendening into that group as well.

"These guys have all paid their dues and deserve a chance to play at the NHL level," Bowman said. "That's sort of how the puzzle is supposed to work. Draft well and develop well and you don't need to go into the free-agent market."

Free agency begins Friday, and the Hawks don't figure to be heavily involved when it comes to the pursuit of the bigger names on the market.

"We'll look at (free agency)," Bowman said. "It's a little early for that right now. The focus (at the draft) was to try and get some draft picks and really build for the future.

"We've had a lot of good young players develop over the past couple years and we want to keep that going. That's really been the success of the last couple seasons. We've had one or two guys graduate each year and move into the NHL, and I think we want to keep that going."

Trading Bolland and Frolik freed up more than enough money to sign left wing Bryan Bickell before he became an unrestricted free agent Friday. Bickell signed a four-year, $16 million contract.

"We've kept our core group together," Bowman said. "Bickell was really a big contributor for our team, so we had to keep him and his style of play around.

"We didn't have to (trade Bolland and Frolik), but looking at the big picture we have a lot of young players ready to play and at some point you have to open up spots for them to play.

"It had nothing to do with Dave Bolland or Michael Frolik," Bowman added. "They contributed greatly to our success and I wish them well. They've been great Blackhawks and they represented us well, but we've got a lot of young guys and there are only 12 spots up front."

Bowman now turns his attention to signing restricted free agents Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger.

"We're certainly going to sign both of those players," Bowman said.

As for the draft, the Hawks' GM was excited about adding three picks from the trades for Bolland and Frolik.

"I'm really excited about the guys we picked," Bowman said. "We got a mixture of positions, five forwards and three defensemen.

"Ryan Hartman is a nice first pick. It's a nice story that he's a Chicago kid, but that's not the reason we picked him. He's a heart-and-soul kind of guy. He does it all.

"He plays hard, gets under the other team's skin, but he's got a lot of talent as well. He's the kind of player the fans are certainly going to embrace."

Hartman told chicagoblackhawks.com that he got anxious when it came time for the Hawks to pick 30th in the first round.

"My heart was racing when I thought this could happen," he said. "Unbelievable, my hometown team. It's kind of a dream come true."

Hartman will be among those players taking part in the 2013 Blackhawks prospects camp July 8-12 at Johnny's IceHouse West.

ŸFollow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.

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