Bowman gives new goalie high marks
In a question-and-answer session with fans on Saturday, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman painted a glowing picture of goalie Antti Raanta, who was signed to a one-year contract.
The 24-year-old Raanta was a double MVP (regular season and playoffs) playing for Assat Pori in Finland's SM-Liiga last season.
"He had a great season over in Finland last year, and over the last two years he's really started to emerge as a top goalie in Europe," Bowman said. "Our plans were to bring him over here to North America and get him acclimated to the different size rink here than it is in Europe."
Bowman compared Raanta's development to that of Antti Niemi, who helped lead the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup in 2010.
"We saw that a couple years ago when we brought Niemi over," Bowman said. "He spent the year in Rockford learning how to play over here, so the plan is for (Raanta) to get used to the North American game and push to be an NHL goaltender. The time frame on that is going to be dictated by him and how he adjusts, but I think he's got a lot of potential.
"We're excited about what he brings to the table and we're not going to handicap when he'll be in the NHL. We'll let that unfold as it has to, but he's got a lot of talent. Goaltending is a critical position and we're trying to build up depth in that spot."
Raanta also give the Hawks insurance against an injury to either Corey Crawford of backup Nikolai Khabibulin.
Looking ahead to Sochi:
After leading the Hawks to the Stanley Cup, goalie Corey Crawford finds himself in the mix to represent Canada in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Crawford was one of five Hawks to be invited to Canada's orientation camp in August in Calgary.
Also receiving invites were Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp.
"That would be awesome," Crawford said. "I've never had the chance to play for Team Canada in my career, and to be invited is pretty good. But I just have to worry about playing the season and focusing on each game. If it happens, great; that's a great opportunity. And if not, then you'll always have the season to focus on. But definitely, it's one of my big goals is to play for them."
Patrick Kane, Nick Leddy and Brandon Saad received invites to the Team USA camp while Niklas Hjalmarsson is going to Sweden's camp. Marian Hossa is expected to play again for Slovakia.
Despite undergoing two surgeries since the playoffs ended, center Michal Handzus expects to be ready for the start of training camp.
It was revealed after the season he had played during the Stanley Cup Final with a broken wrist and a torn MCL.
"I had two surgeries, but I'm healing and it's coming along," Handzus said. "Right now, my wrist, I still can't do anything. It's in a cast for one more week. After four weeks, I'm going to start to do something. It's a little bit slower. My knee, it's pretty much I'm rehabbing right now."
Handzus, 36, was more than happy to sign a one-year contract to stay with the Hawks.
"We won the Cup together," Handzus said. "I've only (been here) three months; I got traded in April, but when you go through the playoffs and win it with a group of guys, you know, you get really close to each and you don't want to leave."