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Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman playing waiting game on trade front

Updated: July 25, 2012 6:51AM

PITTSBURGH — As picks came down in rapid succession during the second day of the NHL draft Saturday at the Consol Energy Center, it became apparent that if the Blackhawks were going to pull the trigger on a trade, it would come later.

General manager Stan Bowman, with a self-described “position of strength” when it comes to trading, is willing to wait out what happens this week and into free agency, which opens next Sunday.

“I think everybody was focused on the draft today,” Bowman said Saturday after drafting eight players. “There was a lot happening, rapid-fire picks and not as much leading up to it.

“The discussions I did have, everyone agreed that you don’t need to try to jam a trade in in the next half-hour before we get going. But we had some brief discussions with a few teams. We all agreed that it will probably pick up as the weeks go on. There will be movement with players around the league over the next two weeks.”

Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson continues to be in play, and the Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers are said to be among the teams doing their homework on him. Bowman talked trades with Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon again Saturday, and he recently has had conversations with Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.

While the availability of Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and New Jersey Devils winger Zach Parise will make free agency very interesting, GMs — including Bowman and Tallon — have said that the slim free-agent pool overall could lead to more trades.

That pool, though, might grow if certain restricted free agents aren’t re-signed. It’s a big waiting game, especially for teams such as the Hawks, who are built to win now and aren’t looking to stockpile prospects.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty with how free agency is going to shake out,” Bowman said. “Some teams are waiting to see if the players they like [sign]. Whether they get them or not is going to dictate [things].

“Obviously, there are some high-profile guys available, but they’re only going to go to one team, and there’s probably going to be five or six teams after them. So the teams that don’t get those players are going to be looking for other things. There are opportunities there.”

Bowman said the Hawks aren’t looking for anything specific on the trade market. But adding size, a proven center and defensive depth are needs. The only trade Bowman made in Pittsburgh was a draft-pick exchange with the San Jose Sharks.

Although the Hawks are dangling Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, coach Joel Quenneville indicated that he’d like to see the team address its defense in some way.

“There was one or two spots [on the blue line] that we were trying a lot of guys,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully, we get a little bit more predictability and consistency there. We want three pairs that we can roll out there, and if you can roll them against all four lines, then you’re in the perfect shape.

“We’ll see how that plays out. But hopefully there is some balance there and some more shared minutes. We say that now, but when you get pressed into a game, sometimes it gets a little tighter. But in a perfect world, hopefully that happens.”

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