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Maatta acquisition start to busy offseason for Blackhawks, GM says

Bowman expects Chicago to be active in trades, free agency with priority on improving defense

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are already making moves to improve their roster after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season, and general manager Stan Bowman expects more to come in what could be a busy offseason.

"We want to find some new players for our team," Bowman said Sunday, the day after the Blackhawks acquired defenseman Olli Maatta in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. 

"Whether that's through trade or free agency, it doesn't matter too much. Right now, the trade chatter has been pretty active throughout the League. I've been in a number of conversations, and I expect that to continue over the next week."


[RELATED: Maatta traded to Blackhawks by Penguins]


The Blackhawks expect Maatta, a 24-year-old defenseman who won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017 with the Penguins, to help improve their goals-against and penalty kill. Chicago allowed 291 goals this season, second most in the NHL behind the Ottawa Senators (301). Their penalty kill was last in the NHL at 72.7 percent.

"This is a great start," Bowman said of the Maatta trade. "We're a week out from the [2019 NHL] Draft and we've already improved our defense, and we're going to keep looking at ways to improve our defense and the rest of our team. So from that perspective, I expect it to be active over the next couple of weeks."

The draft is at Rogers Arena in Vancouver beginning Friday with the first round (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

The Blackhawks (36-34-12) finished sixth in the Central Division, six points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Though he said overall team improvement is key, Bowman also said, "I'm not setting [the defense] aside either." 

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The Blackhawks were comfortable trading Kahun because they have good forward depth, especially at wing. Bowman said he liked the progress of forward Dylan Sikura last season, and expects Sikura, as well as forwards Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin, to earn spots in the Blackhawks lineup. Kubalik, who signed a one-year, $925,000 contract with the Blackhawks on May 29, had 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 10 games for the Czech Republic in the IIHF World Championship. Wedin signed a one-year, $925,000 contract with the Blackhawks on May 23 after he had 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 32 games for Timra of the Swedish Hockey League.

The trade for Maatta was the first move, but it looks like it's going to be a busy couple of weeks for the Blackhawks.

"We expect to be active," Bowman said. "This is the time of year when there's a lot of player movement, with the draft and then July 1 (free agency) on the horizon. So I think we're going to continue to look at other ways to improve our team through trades, and if none of that comes to be, we'll look at the free agent market."

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