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Silence at deadline speaks volumes about Bowman’s faith in Blackhawks

Updated: March 6, 2014 12:15AM



Stan Bowman sat in his usual spot, center ice in the last row of the 100-level seats, watching the Blackhawks practice Wednesday morning. He had his phone in his hands, not in his ear.

No war room. No frantic calls. No last-minute deadline dealing.

And that means no Ryan Kesler.

“We were never in any of that,” Bowman said after the trade deadline passed. “I always just kind of chuckle when I see all these reports that we’re close to getting [the big names]. I haven’t even had discussions on any of those players that they were talking about.”

While fans clamored for the Hawks to finally add the second-line center they’ve been seeking — and winning two Stanley Cups despite not having — for years now, Bowman simply added an eighth defenseman in David Rundblad on Tuesday night.

Kesler, the Canucks center whom Hawks fans love to hate, was one of the biggest names on the block. But Vancouver didn’t get the right offer, and likely will try its luck again over the summer.

Don’t expect the Hawks to be in on that one, either. Besides focusing on contract extensions for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane this summer, Bowman likes the group he has. And with only about $50,000 worth of cap space at the deadline, he wasn’t willing to part with a roster player — any roster player.

“It’s different this year with the salary cap being lower than it’s ever been in recent years,” Bowman said. “It [forces] you to trade money to add money. And we believe in our group here.”

Bowman said the same thing last year, deciding against bringing in a big-name center and plucking Michal Handzus off the San Jose scrapheap. It worked out, as Handzus centered the second line to a Stanley Cup. With Marian Hossa progressing well from his upper-body injury, there was no sense of panic or urgency to find another scorer. And whether Handzus or recently acquired Peter Regin assumes that role this time around is almost immaterial to Bowman, who shrugged off the idea that the Hawks even need a true second-line center.

“I think we just view it differently than a lot of people do — we don’t really have our lines numbered,” he said. “We don’t have just one line that has to score, another line that has to check, another line that has to hit. We don’t play hockey that way. We’ve got 12 forwards that all play. Whoever is slotted in on one line, it’s not that critical to the overall success of our team. If you’re loaded up on one or two lines and that’s who you count on to score your goals, you’re an easy team to play against.”

That being said, Quenneville did make a move Wednesday to inject some life into that “second” line, dropping Patrick Sharp down and reuniting him with Patrick Kane, who has just one assist in his last four games.

“I don’t mind what we’re giving up, and usually that’s the most important criteria,” Quenneville said. “But we should be generating a little bit more. Maybe that … will ignite some offense.”

So while the Blues made the big splash by adding Ryan Miller and Steve Ott, and the Wild picked up Matt Moulson and Ilya Bryzgalov, the Kings grabbed Marian Gaborik, and the Avalanche and Stars solidified their goaltending situations with Reto Berra and Tim Thomas, respectively, the Hawks largely stood pat.

Were there areas to improve upon? Of course. Would Kane benefit from a speedier, more offensive-minded center? Absolutely. But in order to add, Bowman would have had to subtract. And he simply wasn’t willing to do that.

“We don’t have any players that we want to trade away,” Bowman said. “We’ve really accomplished a lot over the last couple of seasons with the group we have here, and we’re not looking to break it apart.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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