Daily Herald
Hawks trade cuts salary, makes room for the kids
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 9/12/2008 5:27 PM | Updated: 9/12/2008 7:12 PM

As expected, the Blackhawks traded a high-priced veteran to open up salary cap space Friday.

But it wasn't Nikolai Khabibulin.

Instead it was center Robert Lang and his $4 million salary going to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2010.

The 37-year-old Lang had 21 goals and 54 points last season but was mostly an inconsistent offensive presence in 76 games.

If moving Lang makes the Hawks less experienced at center, general manager Dale Tallon isn't worried. Tallon said dealing Lang creates an opportunity for Dave Bolland and Petri Kontiola to play significant minutes behind No. 1 center Jonathan Toews.

"We can also play (Patrick) Sharp at center," Tallon said. "We'll just see how it goes. We've got a lot of confidence in Kontiola and these other kids, and this gives them a chance. We have to make room for our kids. We want to continue to build from within. It's a young man's league."

It's also possible Tallon has another deal in the works for a veteran center.

The Hawks have invited free-agent veterans Geoff Sanderson and Kevyn Adams to training camp on a tryout basis. Sanderson had 3 goals and 10 assists with Edmonton last season in 41 games and is mostly a left winger, but he can play some center.

Kontiola, who turns 24 next month, had 5 assists in 12 games for the Hawks last season but was one of Rockford's top scorers with 18 goals and 68 points in 66 games.

"We're happy with Kontiola; he's a real smart player," Tallon said. "So is Bolland, and we have a lot of confidence in him as well."

Sharp prefers to play wing and was expected to be on the left side with Toews and Patrick Kane on the top line.

"We could put (Andrew) Ladd at left wing (with Toews and Kane)," Tallon said. "This is going to open up a spot for guys like (Jack) Skille or (Troy) Brouwer as well. We like our young guys and want to continue to develop them."

The Canadiens have been looking for a veteran center all summer, zeroing in on free agent Mats Sundin. But with Sundin still unsure if he even wants to play, the Canadiens turned their attention to Lang.

The Hawks were nearly $3 million over the NHL's $56.7 million salary cap, a figure they don't need to be at until opening night. Their payroll now approaching the start of training camp next Friday is approximately $55.2 million.

Tallon insists he is not looking to trade Khabibulin and his $6.75 million salary, although at least one league source claimed the veteran goalie is available.

Tallon has not publicly backed away from his plan of using both Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet in goal.

In Khabibulin and Huet, the Hawks have $12.38 million committed to their two goaltenders. Huet signed a four-year, $22.54 million contract as a free agent on July 1. This is the final year of Khabibulin's contract before he would become an unrestricted free agent.