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Down to last day for Havlat, Blackhawks
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/30/2009 12:00 AM

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As the clock ticks toward July 1 on Wednesday, there certainly is some nervousness on the part of Blackhawks fans.

By next week everyone should have a pretty good indication of what direction general manager Dale Tallon and his staff have mapped out to improve a team that must be considered a Stanley Cup contender in 2009-10 with the right tweaks.

The Hawks have Tuesday left to re-sign Martin Havlat before their leading scorer becomes an unrestricted free agent and likely bolts town after three years.

Tallon, however, has not lost hope that Havlat still can be signed, although the chances of that happening were looking slim.

"If it takes until 11:59 (Tuesday), or whatever it takes, we're going to try and get it done," Tallon said.

Havlat is expected to have a number of teams seeking his services should he reach unrestricted free agency, clubs willing to give him the multiyear contract he seeks.

The Hawks, according to a source, had been offering Havlat a one-year contract believed to be worth as much as $7 million.

The Montreal Canadiens are one team that could have serious interest in Havlat and vice versa. The Canadiens need to add a game-breaker to their lineup and have failed so far in their many attempts to trade with Tampa Bay for Vincent Lecavalier.

Havlat is one of a handful of premier scorers set to become unrestricted free agents Wednesday, a list that includes Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

Of that group, Havlat could come at the best price.

None of those players are coming to Chicago, though, not with Tallon unable to spend big money with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith needing to be re-signed after next season.

Tallon said last week after he wouldn't meet Anaheim's asking price for defenseman Chris Pronger after the defenseman was traded to Philadelphia that his primary objective was to commit to his core players going forward.

While that likely means the Hawks won't be major players in free agency like last summer, when they signed Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet, they still could be somewhat active.

Assuming they don't sign Havlat, the Hawks would have that $6 million plus Nikolai Khabibulin's $6.75 million to spend elsewhere.

Tallon maintains he has had talks with Khabibulin's agent about bringing the veteran goalie back. But unless the Hawks can move Huet's big contract, which still has three years to run, there doesn't appear to be any way the team can afford to carry the same two goaltenders.

Khabibulin likely wouldn't be interested in signing a one-year deal with the Hawks when there are teams out there such as Edmonton, Colorado, Los Angeles and Washington desperate for goalie help and willing to pay big bucks.

Among the veterans the Hawks could have on their free-agent radar are winger Mike Cammalleri and defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Francois Beauchemin.

Cammalleri scored 39 goals for Calgary last season and could be a solid replacement for Havlat since the Hawks don't have any goal-scoring prospects ready to step up. Jack Skille is a third-liner at best.

Ohlund is steady, and Beauchemin is physical. The Hawks need both ingredients on defense. Montreal's punishing Mike Komisarek would be an ideal fit, but he is expected to command perhaps as much as $6 million a year.

Free-agent forwards Saku Koivu, John Madden, Ian Laperriere and P.J. Axelsson could be of interest to the Hawks should Tallon be unable to come to terms with Sammy Pahlsson, who would join Havlat and Khabibulin as unrestricted free agents Wednesday.