Now that Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik have been traded to help create the cap space to re-sign left wing Bryan Bickell, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman can turn his attention to other pressing matters.
Bowman on Tuesday spoke to the agent for backup goalie Ray Emery, whom the Hawks would like to re-sign before he becomes an unrestricted free agent Friday.
The Hawks' GM also is working on getting defenseman Nick Leddy and center Marcus Kruger re-signed before they become restricted free agents Friday.
Bowman has spoken to the agent for Viktor Stalberg, who is expected to test the market Friday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Stalberg, who was benched twice in the playoffs by coach Joel Quenneville for a lack of production, is believed to have several teams interested in him.
"Maybe at some point in your career you want to see what else is out there and what other role you can get and see for yourself how good you can allow yourself to be," Stalberg said last week. "I think that's a thing we're going to see if that's the fit here. If it's not, it might be somewhere else."
Once free agency has come and gone, Bowman can start to worry about getting goalie Corey Crawford and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson re-signed. Both players will be entering the final year of their contracts next season.
"Once we get through (the draft and free agency), then we've got a new set of things which we'll tackle, so there's sequencing," Bowman said. "Obviously, Corey had a tremendous season and I'm really happy for him. I think he would never say it, because he's a pretty understated guy, but he battled through a lot over the last couple seasons."
Crawford signed a three-year, $8 million deal before last season. His cap hit is $2.66 million. He now considers himself part of the Hawks' core.
"Yeah, I do," Crawford said. "It's gone by pretty fast. Last year was a learning curve of being the No. 1 guy, but I was able to win a lot of hockey games for this team. I learned from the experience and kept growing as a player. Hopefully we can have many more special moments in the future."
Bringing back Emery wouldn't be a surprise since he said nothing beats winning. But with Crawford only 28, it would be surprising if Emery didn't at least test the free-agent waters.
"I'd love to stay here," Emery said. "We'll see how that works out with what Chicago has in mind and see how the cards kind of play, but I definitely would like to stay here."
Emery went 17-1 this season and there isn't a whole lot of top talent on the free-agent market in terms of goalies: Ilya Bryzgalov, Evgeni Nabokov, Rick DiPietro, Nikolai Khabibulin, Tim Thomas and Jose Theodore.
You would think a team such as Edmonton or Calgary would jump at the chance to sign Emery, and overpay to do it.
If the Hawks do lose Emery, they would have newly signed Antti Raanta available to be Crawford's backup. Bowman insisted Raanta's signing had nothing to do with the possibility of losing Emery.
"No, they don't necessarily play into each other," Bowman said. "We looked at signing (Raanta) as a move for the future. He's a young guy. He's 24 years old and hopefully he can adjust to North America quickly.
"Sometimes that takes a little bit of time, so we're not trying to rush him into anything. You know, obviously hockey is hockey, but the size of the rink is smaller over here, the style of play is a little bit different, so as a goaltender that can take some time."
Bowman already is looking ahead to next July 1 when he can start talks with Pat Brisson, the agent for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, about new deals.
Their contracts run through the 2014-15 season, and under terms of the collective-bargaining agreement teams can't begin talking to their players about extensions until a year out from the end of their deals.
"That's always on our mind," Bowman said. "It's been on our mind since we signed them to their last contract extension. There's no doubt that they've made an incredible impact on the franchise, the city and hockey in Chicago. We've been planning for that.
"Obviously, that's two years away and we can talk about that a year from now, and I anticipate a year from now us getting on that right away."
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