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Up against cap, more moves ahead for Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are not quite done with the latest remake of their roster.

Despite trading Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and Johnny Oduya, and letting Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette leave as free agents since winning the Stanley Cup on June 15, Chicago is up against the $71.4 million NHL salary cap with the 21 players they've signed who are most likely to make the opening night roster.

More regulars could be on the move before the start of training camp in September, and there's the possibility the Blackhawks could do what they did last year, when they traded defenseman Nick Leddy a few days before the first game.

"We've had a lot of discussions," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Friday at the Hilton Chicago prior to the start of their annual fan convention. "I think we have some ideas of what we're going to do. We've got a couple different scenarios that we are planning on doing and ultimately, which one we'll land on … in time that will come to be.

"There's been a lot of work preparing for this. Nothing's come up and surprised us, and it's only the second week of July. As a result, we're still working on it."

Bowman said bonus overages from last season, which carry over to this season's cap charges, amount to about $750,000. That makes the squeeze even tighter and the possibility of additional trades more likely.

Forwards Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg are thought to be on the block. Bickell has two years left on a contract with a cap charge of $4 million; Versteeg has a $2.2 million charge on a contract that runs one more season, according to

Bickell and Versteeg attended the fan convention and met with reporters Friday.

"It's a business thing, where [the front office] is going to make moves to help out the team and to make the team stronger," Bickell said. "I hope it's not me. I love this city. I love winning, really. It's a great feeling and I want to do this for my career."

Versteeg said, "If I get traded, I'll talk to Stan at that point and figure out some things. As of right now, it's just business as usual. I go to the gym, work out, go see my little man (infant son) and hang out. There's not too much focus that goes into where I might be or where I might not be. I hope I'm not [traded]. I'd love to come back. I love it here."

Seeking cap-reducing trades isn't the only item left on Bowman's agenda. He needs to hammer out new contracts for restricted free agent forwards Marcus Kruger and Joakim Nordstrom, and rookie defenseman Viktor Svedberg.

Kruger's contract is the most pressing. He's helped the Blackhawks win the Cup twice as the fourth-line center and would be the most difficult to replace of the three Swedish players.

It's been reported that the biggest hang-up to finalizing a deal is the Blackhawks' cap situation, which doesn't have enough room to allow Kruger a long-term contract extension.

War-on-ice shows the Blackhawks about $400,000 over the cap right now. NHL teams can be 10 percent over (approximately $7.14 million) during the offseason.

Bowman said negotiations with Kruger haven't been contentious.

"We're still talking and trying to get everything worked out," he said. "We're working on some things still and we don't have anything to report right now. We've got some things we're looking at in preparation for next season. There's a few different scenarios that we have prepared for and contemplated, but we don't have it quite ironed out yet."

Author: Brian Hedger | Correspondent

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