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Blackhawks likely to use salary cap space 'closer to training camp'

GM waiting out quieter months after trading Hossa to Coyotes

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are unlikely to acquire players with their recently created salary-cap flexibility until closer to the start of training camp, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Tuesday.

"That's probably the way it's going to be," Bowman said. "Each year teams have surprises, good and bad, in camp. I think our team's the same way. You have ideas on how your lines are going to look or how your players are going to be ready. There'll be some adjustments around the League, but probably not a lot of activity. If you look back the last couple of seasons, late July and August are quieter as far as transactions. There's the possibility of moves, but probably closer to training camp is more when changes may happen."

The Blackhawks gained space under the NHL salary cap when they traded forward Marian Hossa to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. It is something they haven't had recently, and it could be used to improve on a last-place finish in the Central Division last season.

Hossa said this offseason he will no longer play in the NHL, unable to do so because of a skin disorder and the treatment it requires. Chicago also traded forward Vinnie Hinostroza, defenseman Jordan Oesterle and a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft to Arizona for forwards Marcus Kruger and Jordan Maletta, defenseman Andrew Campbell, forward prospect MacKenzie Entwistle, and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft.

Video: Bowman on Hossa's legacy, trading Hinostroza

The Coyotes became responsible for the salary cap charge associated with the final three seasons of Hossa's contract.

"It was becoming challenging to try to operate with that contract here," Bowman said. "It necessitated us trying to make the move we made."

The Blackhawks on July 1 signed free agent goaltender Cam Ward and forward Chris Kunitz each to a one-year contract, and free agent defenseman Brandon Manning to a two-year contract.

Chicago didn't have an experienced goaltender to play when Corey Crawford missed the second half of the season with an upper-body injury. Bowman reiterated Crawford should be ready for training camp, which begins in mid-September.

The Blackhawks could be looking for an experienced, top-four defenseman to share responsibilities with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Seabrook has played 1,004 NHL games, Keith has played 995, and Connor Murphy is next among Blackhawks defensemen with 334 games.

Video: Stan Bowman on the likelihood of trades, signings

Other teams in the Central Division made noticeable improvements this offseason. The St. Louis Blues got stronger at center when they signed Tyler Bozak to a three-year contract and acquired Ryan O'Reilly in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres. The Colorado Avalanche acquired goaltender Philipp Grubauer in a trade with the Washington Capitals and signed free agent defenseman Ian Cole. The Dallas Stars reportedly are one of the teams with the best chance to acquire defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators in a trade.

The Blackhawks reportedly have interest in defenseman Justin Faulk, who is said to be available from the Carolina Hurricanes, as is forward Jeff Skinner.

"Having cap space is an asset in and of itself, so things will come along maybe in the summer, maybe in the beginning part of the [season] where teams have a couple players that make their team unexpectedly that makes some other players more expendable," Bowman said. "In the past, we probably haven't really been a good match for those types of situations because we didn't have the cap room at that time. So now we're going to be in the mix for those types of things. Whether we use it right away or whether we use it during the season, I think the nice thing is we have the flexibility now going in to the coming years where we're going to need cap room, all that and more, to sign the young players."

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