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Blackhawks sure to go for a splash in free agency

The Hawks certainly wouldn’t be alone if they pursued Zach Parise. | Andy Marlin~Getty Images

The Hawks certainly wouldn’t be alone if they pursued Zach Parise. | Andy Marlin~Getty Images

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Updated: August 2, 2012 10:39AM



What else were Joel Quenneville and Jonathan Toews going to say?

Asked if the Blackhawks could contend for the Stanley Cup with their current roster, the coach and captain were on the same page.

‘‘I think so,’’ Toews said before highlighting the performances of some of the Hawks’ young players.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ Quenneville said before doing the same.

General manager Stan Bowman made similar comments not long before them.

But don’t be fooled. Changes are coming.

Bowman has been saying for weeks that he won’t hesitate to trade anyone on his team — other than his key stalwarts — and that he’s ready to be active when free agency begins Sunday and during the expected trade frenzy. He’s feeling some heat to get the job done after the Hawks fell short of regular-season expectations the last two years and then were knocked out in consecutive first rounds of the playoffs.

Take into account what Hawks president John McDonough told the Sun-Times recently.

‘‘There is a lot at stake here,’’ he said. ‘‘I impart that on Stan on a regular basis, and he understands that.’’

With the salary cap at $70.2  million for the time being, Bowman has more than $8 million at his disposal. The Hawks also have been dangling defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, so more cap room might become available.

Here’s a look at free agency:

FORWARDS

Notable unrestricted free agents

Zach Parise (Devils), Shane Doan (Coyotes), Olli Jokinen (Flames), Dustin Penner (Kings), P.A. Parenteau (Islanders), Jaromir Jagr (Flyers)

Back check

There are plenty of big names out there — even more so, considering the Blue Jackets’ Rick Nash and the Ducks’ Bobby Ryan are available via trades — but the Hawks have to fix their holes at center. Their lack of depth up the middle has hurt matchups and been exposed far too much.

It’s not just on the second line, either. They simply need more legitimate centermen — not wings capable of handling the middle — who are solid in the faceoff circle and can competently handle all the responsibilities associated with the position. The Hawks had depth in the middle when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010, just as the Kings did this past season.

There are plenty of playmaking wings available. Parise is coveted by everyone, and Doan could provide an aggressive edge and some veteran savvy. Both should be pitched.

DEFENSEMEN

Notable UFas

Ryan Suter (Predators), Matt Carle (Flyers), Jason Garrison (Panthers)

Back check

Suter is due a big contract, especially after lesser defensemen have signed big deals recently. But it’s likely the Hawks are behind the Red Wings and Wild in the Suter race. Carle makes a great No. 2 option.

Quenneville has indicated he’d like to see his defense corps addressed. The Hawks have plenty of fast-skating puck-movers (Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy) and bigger, tougher types would give them a good mix. Brent Seabrook is solid but can’t provide that by himself.

Sources have said the Hawks are willing to trade Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, so the defense might be on the verge of some significant changes.

GOALIES

Notable UFA:

Martin Brodeur (Devils)

Back check:

The goalie market was pretty bare until the news broke that Brodeur, arguably the best goalie ever, would test free agency in the midst of the Devils’ financial woes. His availability likely will affect the trade value of the Canucks’ Roberto Luongo (and his massive contract). Luongo is bound to be moved.

The Hawks, by all accounts, continue to stand by Corey Crawford. They’ve always sounded more than willing to give him a chance to rebound in his third season.

‘‘We always remember how good he’s been for us when he’s at the top of his game,” Toews said. ‘‘We all know how good he can be. The pressure that is on the starting goaltender is sometimes unfair.’’



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