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|League sources indicate the Hawks are willing to move Niklas Hjalmarsson.|
General managers, agents, scouts and soon-to-be draft picks will gather in Pittsburgh on Friday for the annual NHL entry draft. But the selection process won’t be the only thing on their minds. The draft is traditionally where the hot stove of the NHL’s offseason heats up. And the Blackhawks could once again make some noise.
During last year’s draft, Chicago traded high-priced defenseman Brian Campbell to Florida in no more than a salary dump. The Hawks also moved forward Troy Brouwer to Washington in another cap-clearing transaction. The Hawks used some of that money days later to sign some free agents, but they never made the big-ticket move many Hawks fans may have wanted.
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said recently that trade talks have picked up. Could these potential deals be consummated in Pittsburgh over the weekend? Here’s a few things that are emerging regarding the Hawks as NHL teams begin the heavy lifting of the summer in advance of free-agency on July 1:
Defense on the Move?
Though the Hawks could go to training camp with the roster they have, Bowman has said all along there would be some changes. League sources indicate defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador are being dangled. While the Hawks would undoubtedly want to make a good “hockey deal” in moving them, shedding their salaries could be just as important. Combined, the two players cost the Hawks $6.25 million on the salary cap per year. Hjalmarsson is signed for two more years, Montador for three.
It’s not clear who the Hawks are talking to about their defensemen, in Montador’s case it might be simply any team that will take him. If there are no takers, he could even end up on waivers. Hjalmarsson is more likely to bring some talent back in return, but again, it’s unclear if that talent would be an NHL veteran or prospect.
If the Hawks are able to shed those salaries, there is very good chance they could take a run at soon to be unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter—who is from nearby Madison, Wisconsin. Or the Hawks could really be bold and make an offer to his teammate, restricted free-agent Shea Weber. He’s the class of the free agent crop on defense.
• Viktor Stalberg is not actively being shopped, but he could be included in a deal as part of a bigger package, perhaps with Hjalmarsson or Montador.
• There has never been any indication the Hawks are interested in trading Patrick Kane.
• The Hawks don’t look to be in the sweepstakes for goalie Roberto Luongo, which most likely means they aren’t in the running for a new goaltender.