Hawks GM: Corey Crawford 'top priority'

Updated: May 3, 2011, 9:39 AM ET
By Jesse Rogers | ESPNChicago.com

Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said he expects to keep restricted free-agent goalie Corey Crawford in a Hawks uniform and hopes it's for many years.

"He's a top priority for us," Bowman said Thursday in his end-of-season address to media. "He's earned the right to be a No. 1 goalie for us and our team loves playing in front of him. He has the right demeanor and right approach. He loves to be in Chicago. He's clearly a priority for us. It's nice to know going into next year we are going to have some stability in goal."

Crawford can field offers from other teams starting July 1, but the Hawks would have the right to match and keep him from leaving.

"For him to take [the No.1 job] and run with it is very rewarding to see," Bowman said. "He's an impressive kid in a lot of ways. ... In Game 7 [of the playoffs] he was dynamite."

Crawford made $850,000 in 2010-2011 taking over as the No. 1 goaltender early in the season, when Marty Turco faltered. He won 33 games to lead the Hawks to the playoffs. He can sign an extension before he becomes available to the market on July 1.

Bowman indicated this summer would be different than last year, when he had to move key players due to salary constraints.

"We don't have the mandatory moves we had a year ago which were dictated by the salary cap," he said.

There will be some roster turnover, but Bowman was encouraged by contributions from young players like Ben Smith, Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger.

"They stepped up," Bowman said. "Now that you can reflect back on it that's the exciting part of what we have here. They really showed what's going to be next year's team. Our core is going to be back but there is more comfort knowing some of those roles are going to be filled by the players that stepped up."

Though he's not a free agent until next summer, Bowman indicated star forward Patrick Sharp is in the Hawks' plans for a longer stay.

"It's not a secret here," Bowman said. "Patrick has been a huge part of our success. He's part of the leadership group. ... He really has the whole package."

Sharp is entering the last year of a four-year pact earning him an average of $3.9 million. He led the team with 34 goals this season.

The Hawks signed stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane before the end of their previous contracts. Bowman expects the same for Sharp.

"I suspect it's going to be like those other guys," Bowman said. "You start the negotiations and hopefully it doesn't carry on too long. We've had a good track record here of keeping our core. Sharp is in that group as well."

The sides can start negotiating on a new deal as soon as July 1.

Bowman also said he had hoped for a major penalty to be called against Raffi Torres for his hit on Brent Seabrook in Game 3 of the playoffs between the Hawks and the Vancouver Canucks. But he did not have a big issue with the league's not suspending Torres for it.

"They don't make the decisions on a whim," he said. "I respect their decisions that way. You can't let that sidetrack you. If anything it really motivated our players to band together."

Bowman said though it hasn't been determined yet several Hawks players will probably play in the Men's World Hockey Championships, which begin April 29 in Slovokia.

"Their names have been thrown about," Bowman said. "We're doing our exit medicals [Thursday]. A lot of these guys were banged up. Some will need some time to recuperate. I'm sure some guys will play."

Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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