Stan Bowman eyes role players
Despite money available for a top end player, don't expect the Chicago Blackhawks to be shopping in the expensive section of the free-agency store when it opens for business on Friday, according to general manager Stan Bowman.
"A player that can play in your top six doesn't necessarily mean he's going to make huge dollars," Bowman explained. "We're looking for players that fit that role. It doesn't mean we're going to sign them to long-term deals at huge contracts. There are certain players we have in mind that can play with our top guys. We're not going to be going after players that get huge, long-term contracts because that doesn't fit in with what we're trying to do."
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Bowman is comfortable with that stance because he says the free-agent class for big names is weak after the first few, though there are plenty of second-tier guys the Hawks are interested in.
"We have lists we like in different scenarios," he said.
Bowman has said repeatedly this offseason he wants a "certain" type of role player, but the recent trades of Troy Brouwer, Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky fueled speculation that the Hawks might be big players in the free-agent market -- especially for a center.
"We haven't been focusing on that," Bowman said. "We're comfortable with the players we have in those roles. We're trying to get a different kind of player into the mix here. It's a good group for that."
Bowman has his sights set on one potential free agent in particular: Steve Montador, whose rights he acquired in a trade Wednesday with Buffalo.
"We've made our team a desirable destination," Bowman said Thursday. "Chicago is a place players really want to play. I look at it as an opportunity to get a player that we really want before he hits the market. It's a calculated risk but it's one that makes sense in this instance."
The Hawks gave up a seventh-round pick to be able to negotiate with Montador. If they don't sign him by Friday, he's free to sign with any team.
Bowman, along with coach Joel Quenneville, has indicated the Hawks lacked some character and grit that they lost during last offseason's purge due to salary cap constraints. Montador would help fix that.
"He's a style of defenseman that we've been lacking here," Bowman said. "He has a lot of skill for a guy that has physicality to his game. He's pretty offensive. He had 27 points  with no power-play time."
Bowman also likes that Montador is right-handed since the team only had one right-handed defenseman in Brent Seabrook last season.
"We feel he's just coming into his own," Bowman said.
Besides Montador's pending unrestricted free-agent status, the Hawks have three restricted free agents who remain unsigned: Viktor Stalberg, Chris Campoli and Michael Frolik. Bowman said negotiations with those players are in the "early stages" but he hopes to get them signed in "short order."
Other teams can submit offer sheets to them beginning Friday. The Hawks would have the right to match the offers or lose the players for a compensation package of draft picks.
Besides improving the team now, Bowman would also like to hold on to some salary cap space for later in the season.
"It's our goal going into it not to spend every penny in the summertime," Bowman said. "In a perfect world we'd like to leave ourselves some breathing room for injuries or for player trades during the season because it's the one thing we haven't had the last couple years, the ability to change midstream. ... My goal here is not to spend up to $64 million this summer."
Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.