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Blackhawks figure to be quiet in free-agent market

The Blackhawks might re-sign Ray Emery but he could lstarting job elsewhere. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

The Blackhawks might re-sign Ray Emery, but he could land a starting job elsewhere. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

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Updated: August 6, 2013 6:35AM



With the Stanley Cup in hand and most of the roster locked into deals for next season, it’ll be a relatively quiet offseason for the Blackhawks. Free agency begins on Friday, but Hawks general manager Stan Bowman doesn’t expect to make much of a splash.

For one thing, much of the Hawks’ cap space — just a little under $7 million after Nick Leddy’s two-year, $5.4 million deal — will go toward re-signing their own guys, such as restricted free agent Marcus Kruger and possibly unrestricted free agent Ray Emery, who has expressed an interest in returning to Chicago but also could be in line for a starting job elsewhere.

For another, Bowman dealt away Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik not only to shed some salary, but to open up roster spots for some of the Hawks’ prized prospects in Rockford — guys such as forwards Brandon Pirri, Ben Smith, Jimmy Hayes and Jeremy Morin, and defensemen Ryan Stanton and Adam Clendening.

“We’ll look at [the market],” Bowman said. “But we’ve got guys that are knocking on the door to get in the NHL that have been in our system for two years, and I think they probably would be playing on many other teams already. That’s a good situation for us because we’ve let them take their time to develop and we’re not rushing them to the NHL.”

The Hawks picked a good year to be relatively stable, as the free-agent market isn’t quite as enticing as it in some years. Sure, a Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy or Stephen Weiss finally could be the answer to the Hawks’ long-standing question mark at second-line center, but the Hawks are unlikely to be willing or able to pay them fair market value, anywhere from $3 million-$5 million.

Other top free agents are Vinny Lecavalier — bought out by Tampa Bay and already snatched up by the Flyers — and Nathan Horton of the Boston Bruins (the Hawks have little need for another top-six right winger with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane on the roster). Beyond that, it’s largely role players and veterans, and if the Hawks are looking for those types, they can try to re-sign Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival.

It’s just about plugging holes this offseason, not overhauls.

There is one surprise hole the Hawks need to fill now, however, as goaltending coach Stephane Waite — to whom Corey Crawford deferred much of the credit for his breakthrough season — left to take the same job with the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. Waite, who also helped turn Antti Niemi into a championship goaltender in 2010, is a native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, about 90 minutes east of Montreal.

“He has a vast experience, and a thorough knowledge of our local market, and we are convinced that our goaltenders will benefit from his expertise and his work ethic,” said Canadiens GM — and former Hawks assistant GM — Marc Begervin.

Said Bowman: “We would like to thank Stephane for his 10 years of service with the Blackhawks organization and the quality of work he put in with many goaltenders over that period of time. We wish him and his family the best in his new position.”



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