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Eve Of Construction?

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

Add a talented defenseman who can log big minutes. Check. With the signing of Adrian Aucoin Tuesday, next up on the Blackhawks' shopping list is to add a top-line forward.

"We made some offers today," said general manager Dale Tallon. "I've got a feeling we're pretty close. I think tomorrow morning there will be some action."

Stars captain Mike Modano is rumored to be heading back to Dallas, but unrestricted free agents Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Paul Kariya and Ziggy Palffy are still on the market, as are next-tier forwards such as Buffalo center Miroslav Satan, a three-time 30-goal scorer, and Wild left wing Andrew Brunette.

"We've talked to everyone," Tallon said, "upper-level, mid-level and lower-level. We're trying to find the best fit for our team."

While grabbing a top forward is Tallon's next priority, adding another free agent defenseman to complement the acquisition of Aucoin is also in the plans.

"Now that we have [Jassen] Cullimore and Aucoin, they're two guys who can log a lot of minutes," Tallon said. "And we've also got Jim Vandermeer and Steve McCarthy, and we're still looking to add to that.

"We just signed (1st round pick) Brent Seabrook. Duncan Keith had a great year in the minors, plus Anton Babchuk and Michal Barinka," Tallon added. "But [Cullimore's and Aucoin's] ability to log a lot of ice time allows you to sprinkle some kids in there."

Coming off a career-year in which he made his first All-Star appearance and had 13 goals and 31 assists, Aucoin said Tallon made the most persuasive sales pitch of all the general managers he spoke with over the past couple days.

"I talked to four or five GM's personally and he seemed to make a lot of sense," Aucoin explained. "I really liked what he had to say about where the team is going, and Chicago has always been one of my favorite cities going back to my first time ever getting called up by the Canucks. Our second round playoff series was against Chicago and I was really taken back by the way it was then when [Chris] Chelios was here."

In addition to Tallon's commitment to go after other free agents, Aucoin was encouraged by the Blackhawks' stable of talented young forwards, including players such as Tuomo Ruutu, Tyler Arnason, Mark Bell and Kyle Calder.

"The younger forwards that I know are great forwards. It's amazing at their age how huge one extra year can be," Aucoin said. "They're getting better and better, getting more confidence.

"I think with the young core that we have here, especially up front, we definitely have a chance to do well."

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