Chicago Blackhawks' GM won't divulge goaltending plan, not sure about Seabrook's role

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Vegas Golden Knights' William Carrier (28) is stopped by Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) who saves the puck with his helmet during first-period NHL Western Conference Stanley Cup playoff hockey action in Edmonton, Alberta, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

    Vegas Golden Knights' William Carrier (28) is stopped by Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) who saves the puck with his helmet during first-period NHL Western Conference Stanley Cup playoff hockey action in Edmonton, Alberta, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

 
 
Updated 8/21/2020 7:55 PM

Like most NHL general managers, Stan Bowman is probably a fantastic poker player.

He could be sitting across from you with a straight flush to the ace or nothing more than "high card jack" and there's little doubt his expression would remain the same.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So it should come as little surprise that the Blackhawks' GM revealed very little about his off-season plans during a Zoom call with reporters Friday.

The biggest issue obviously is figuring out the goaltending situation. I asked Bowman point blank if he has made -- or plans on making -- an offer to Corey Crawford, who will be an unrestricted free agent.

"I don't have any announcements to make on what we're going to do," Bowman said. "We have an idea of what we want to do, and now we're gonna talk to the agents and see where that goes."

For Crawford to return, he will likely have to sign for less than the $6 million a year he made on his last contract. Some are speculating the number could be as low as $3 million, but a more realistic number is in the $4.5 million to $5 million range.

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Crawford -- who was recently married, has two young kids and owns a place in the city -- may agree to a "hometown discount. Bowman does believe familiarity with your surroundings can lead some to accept a bit less to stay put.

"It's fair to say that there is a value to a situation where you've been around, not just the city, but coaching staff, players, the whole (thing)," Bowman said. "You've lived this.

"You also have time outside that you're going to have to experience in a new city. Some people may look at moving as an adventure. Others, it's daunting. I don't try to figure that out. That's something players will have to decide on their own."

After goaltending, the Hawks really need to decide who will be the primary contributors on defense next season. And it will be no easy task.

As it stands, there are no fewer than 10 players who would come to camp fighting for seven roster spots. One is Brent Seabrook, who vowed to be ready and believes he is still one of the best defensemen on the team.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If Seabrook, who had three surgeries early this year, shows he can be an effective force, it bodes well for the Hawks because they could use his voice and leadership in the room.

"There's no question he's a big part of what we do," Bowman said. "At this point, the next part is just to see how his health is and how our team looks in training camp. Then we can speak more about his actual role in the lineup."

Barring a trade, the locks on the blue line will be Duncan Keith, Adam Boqvist, Connor Murphy and Calvin de Haan. Ian Mitchell should also make the team.

Olli Maatta carries a $4.083 million cap hit and is a good buyout candidate, but he is also a strong penalty killer and was awfully impressive in the postseason.

The situation only gets more crowded when you throw in Slater Koekkoek (if he's re-signed), Nicolas Beaudin, Lucas Carlsson, Dennis Gilbert and Nick Seeler.

There's no doubt: It will be extremely interesting to see how this all shakes out.

The forwards should get a boost with the return of Andrew Shaw and the addition of free-agent signing Pius Suter. Alex DeBrincat, who now carries a $6.4 million cap hit, must bounce back after a disappointing 18-goal season. There can be no sophomore slump from Dominik Kubalik (30 goals).

Finally, what about adding some size? A few heavy hitters certainly would have helped put some doubt in Vegas, which basically ran the smaller Hawks out of Edmonton.

"The biggest thing (about past champions) is probably competitiveness," Bowman said. "You don't have to be the biggest team to be competitive. You can compete through your speed and your skill. ...

"Certainly being big and heavy (is) one way to do it. But ... there are teams that missed the playoffs that are big and heavy. Sometimes that's too packaged in a little phrase. ...

"We're going to certainly address that (and) look at it. ... Some of that involves new players. Some of it involves different things we stress and getting more out of the players we do have.

"The combination of those is what's going to make us successful in the coming years."

Apologies:

I want to fix a mistake from an article a couple of days ago where I said Zack Smith's contract can't be bought out. That is wrong. Any contract can be bought out inside the NHL's buyout window. The confusion is a sentence on capfriendly.com that says a player's cap hit must be above $3.455 million (Smith's is $3.25M). Capfriendly is only referring to players being bought out OUTSIDE THE BUYOUT WINDOW.

The buyout window is normally 48 hours after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final and lasts for about two weeks.

Sorry for the confusion.

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