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Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman still looking after Parise, Suter choose Minnesota

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Updated: August 6, 2012 12:14PM

The Blackhawks ended up losers in the sweepstakes for winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, the best and most coveted free agents.

So what now?

The American-born 27-year-olds and close friends opted for a dual package, joining the Minnesota Wild on the Fourth of July. Parise left behind the New Jersey Devils and Suter the Nashville Predators as they agreed to 13-year, $98 million contracts.

The Hawks offered contracts to both players but were still on the outside. General manager Stan Bowman said the Hawks made “a very impressive offer” to Parise but knew he was drawn to playing in his home state of Minnesota.

Parise said his final choices were the Devils and Wild, and Suter, who’s from Madison, Wis., said it was the Wild or the Detroit Red Wings or returning to the Predators. Suter’s wife is from Bloomington, Minn.

“Sometimes it’s hockey decisions, and sometimes it’s a family decision,” Bowman said Wednesday night. “We simply made a very appealing offer to them, but they didn’t grow up in Chicago.”

With big contracts already on their books and other needs, why did the Hawks focus on Suter and Parise, who admitted Wednesday they’ve been talking about playing together for a while?

“It’s our job to try to make our team better,” Bowman said. “That’s what free agency is about. You go after players you think will help your team.

“They have good talents that would complement our team. That’s the reason you go after players. It’s obvious they would be a nice addition. But there are other players as well that fall in that category, so we’re not stopping our pursuit just because we didn’t land them.”

Either way, Bowman and Co. have added only one piece — depth defenseman Sheldon Brookbank — since free agency opened Sunday.

The good news for the Hawks is the Predators got worse and the Red Wings failed to get better. But the Hawks still are in need of size, centers and defensemen.

So what’s “Plan B”?

It’s no secret Bowman is under pressure from top brass to make the correct changes after consecutive first-round exits. It’s also clear he has been given the OK to add big contracts.

A free-agent frenzy is expected with Suter and Parise signed, but an already-thin pool has gotten shallower. The top players remaining include forwards Shane Doan and Alexander Semin, but there will be a lot of suitors, and prices will rise.

As Bowman said during the draft, teams that don’t get the players they want in free agency will be left to pursue trades. Talks for Columbus Blue Jackets star Rick Nash, Anaheim Ducks power forward Bobby Ryan and Calgary Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester surely will heat up.

The Hawks have been dangling defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson for some time, but while they waited on Parise and Suter, others made moves involving quality players. The Dallas Stars just acquired talented center Derek Roy from the Buffalo Sabres for gritty forward Steve Ott and defenseman Adam Pardy.

“Our objective is not to make a splash,” said Bowman, who confirmed his pursuit of goalie Martin Brodeur. “Our objective is to win hockey games.

“Our objective is to put a team on the ice that is going to give us the best chance to win the Stanley Cup next year. You have to look, and it’s not like we have seven holes to fill.”

But there are some.

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