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Bowman is no rush to 'make a splash' or add defenseman
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Chicago Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook, right, celebrates with teammate Brian Campbell after scoring a goal against the Calgary Flames during the first period of Game 5.


Associated Press

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Published: 7/16/2009 11:36 AM

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New Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman isn't about to tip his hand when it comes to his plans for the start of the 2009-10 season.

"We're going to assemble a plan, for sure, but I was pretty close working with Dale (Tallon) and it's not like we're going to have a radical departure," Bowman said. "We're certainly on the right track.

"I don't envision a lot of changes. The team as it stands today is going to be close to how we start the year. I'm not the kind of person that has to make a splash."

Before he was demoted from GM to senior adviser on Tuesday, Tallon spoke of his hope of adding a physical, stay-at-home defenseman to settle things down on the back end.

Bowman likes what he has on defense in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Cam Barker, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Sopel and Aaron Johnson, although that is not to mean he isn't exploring making a deal to bring in another blue liner.

There continues to be speculation the Hawks and Toronto have talked trade, with the Maple Leafs needing scoring. The Hawks have an abundance of forwards, including scorers such as Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg who carry considerable salary cap hits.

"If you look back to our defense last year, they had a good playoff run," Bowman said. "We're missing Matt Walker, who played well for us, but we also have some players that are back (Sopel and Johnson) that we could have utilized that are now going to be in the mix.

"I think we're OK on defense. I guess when you look at things, in a perfect world, you'd like to maybe add a top-notch defenseman, but at the same time, I'm pretty confident with the group we have. We went a long way with that group and added some great forwards to an already strong front."

Bowman also likes what the Hawks have in goal in Cristobal Huet, Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi.

"I'm very satisfied," Bowman said. "There was a lot made of our goaltending situation last year and understandably so, but the bottom line is we had great goaltending.

"We're very high on our young players, Crawford and Niemi, and I'm very high on Cristobal. He's an excellent goaltender, so that's not a concern of mine."

The Hawks are under the NHL's $56.8 million salary cap for this season, but part of the reason Bowman was promoted to GM was to navigate the team through next summer when there will be serious cap issues with Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Andrew Ladd, Adam Burish and Hjalmarsson to re-sign as restricted free agents.

Bowman isn't convinced the cap will go down, as many predict.

"There was some talk during the year that this upcoming cap was going to be down into the 40s, and that didn't happen," Bowman said. "It could go down, or it could stay the same or it could go up. So that's going to play into how we think.

"Going forward we know it's going to be difficult, but it's not only us who are facing this. If you look at some of the decisions the Red Wings had to make, they let (Mikael) Samuelsson and Hossa and (Tomas) Kopecky go and they haven't added anybody. Not that they didn't want those players, but they're up against it as well. We're going to be in that group soon."

Bowman warned Hawks fans, as Tallon did, that the club can't keep everyone and that tough and perhaps unpopular personnel decisions will need to be made.

"It's going to be a difficult thing and something is going to have to give," Bowman said. "If the salary cap does inch up, that will help us. If not, then we're going to have to decide on our core players and go from there. But we're not unique in that. We're no different than the Penguins or Red Wings, teams that have had success."