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Blackhawks reward Bowman with contract extension

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks
Chase Agnello-Dean / Chicago Blackhawks

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Rather than savoring a second Stanley Cup title in the past four seasons, Stan Bowman spent much of his summer securing key pieces of the Chicago Blackhawks' championship roster.

Wednesday morning, the organization did the same thing for Bowman. The Blackhawks announced a two-year contract extension for their 40-year old vice president and general manager who became the youngest GM in NHL history to preside over a Cup title in 2010 and did it again in 2013.

The decision to add two years to his deal came down to rewarding success, which is a concept Chicago leadership wants to filter throughout all levels of the franchise.

"I had this conversation with [Blackhawks chairman] Rocky Wirtz, who is incredibly supportive, [and] we had a conversation about, 'What is the right thing to do for Stan?'" Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough said Wednesday at the University of Notre Dame's Compton Family Ice Arena. "It's important for me on a day-in, day-out basis, at all levels of our organization, to make sure that we look and seek out who the difference-makers are, people that are really contributing to the success of our organization. Obviously, Stan Bowman has done a terrific job."

Bowman, a Notre Dame alum (Class of 1995), is the youngest GM in the NHL, not to mention a cancer survivor and the only GM to win the Cup twice in the salary-cap era. He's the son of legendary coach Scotty Bowman, now a senior adviser to Chicago.

Stan Bowman is entering his 13th season with the Blackhawks, fifth as GM, and like his famous father is acutely focused on adding more banners to the rafters at United Center.

"Hockeywise, this is a very exciting time to be a part of the Blackhawks organization," Stan said after giving thanks for guidance in his career to Wirtz, McDonough and his father. "We had a tremendous season last year, culminating with the ultimate victory. We had a lot of time this summer to enjoy that … that was a great moment for our organization but it's time to close that book and start a new one. And that's sort of why we're here. This is the first chapter of the new book for the Blackhawks and we're excited for what's to come."

Consider Bowman's contract extension the foreword.

It wasn't so much a gift as a smart business decision by Wirtz and McDonough, who named Bowman GM prior to the 2010 season. The Blackhawks are locking up the mastermind who figured out how to keep Chicago among the elite despite undergoing massive roster turnover after 2010 to meet stringent salary-cap demands.

The added years keep Bowman under contract with Chicago through 2017-18, which will allow him time to see how the next phases of his master plan pan out. The Blackhawks aren't a dynasty yet, according to McDonough, but that doesn't mean they're not striving for it down the line.

"A dynasty is something that is many more Cups than we've won over a much longer period of time," McDonough said. "But as we've put our planning together for the future, we certainly believe strongly that Stan Bowman is the right guy to drive our hockey operation."

Faced with a huge challenge because of the salary cap in the summer of 2010, Bowman was forced to give his roster a makeover and remain competitive. He did it by executing a plan to lock up the team's core group of stars to multiyear contracts and support them with well-picked role players, some from within the system, others via unheralded signings and trades.

The plan worked to near perfection last season after two straight years of exiting the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Bowman was humble in accepting platitudes from McDonough, but probably had reason not to be. Critics pointed out in 2010 that most of the Blackhawks roster was actually constructed by Dale Tallon, whom Bowman replaced. That theory glosses over the role Bowman played in procuring those players as Tallon's assistant GM, not to mention the in-season moves Bowman made in 2010, but there is no debate about Bowman's hand in the 2013 championship.

Though Tallon brought in the bulk of Chicago's highly skilled core group, Bowman's fingerprints were all over the latest Cup win. The stars did what was expected of them and the talented role players Bowman hand-picked to surround them completed the puzzle, including Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Ray Emery, Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, Michal Handzus.

Bowman also gave coach Joel Quenneville more say in the makeup of his staff following a frustrating 2012 season, and it was Bowman who made the call in the summer of 2010 to keep defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who had been signed to an offer sheet by the San Jose Sharks.

That move prompted the exit of Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi and cleared the path for 2013 Cup-winning goalie Corey Crawford. This offseason, Bowman reaffirmed his belief in Quenneville, Hjalmarsson and Crawford by reaching contract extensions for all three, not to mention the extension that retained Bickell.

Wednesday was Bowman's turn to sign up for the future, and he did it with a smile, not just because he was within walking distance of Notre Dame's famous Golden Dome.

"There's a lot of different ways to win today," Bowman said. "I don't think there's just one blueprint. We certainly have the way we believe in, but I won't proclaim to have all the answers. I know there's probably other ways to do it as well. You have to identify the guys who are really integral to your team, and then some of those other players you have to fill in around them."

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