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Blackhawks may make major move at NHL Draft this weekend

Updated: June 23, 2014 6:52PM



LAS VEGAS — Jonathan Toews wore a white polo shirt, a white cap and golf spikes, his sunglasses tucked into his shirt collar. He looked tanned and rested, and sounded a little hoarse after an evening in Las Vegas that included the Beatles “Love” Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage. And as a finalist for the Selke Trophy in town for Tuesday’s NHL awards show, Toews was looking forward to heading outside to play a round of golf at the Wynn with his fellow nominees in the 106-degree heat.

So no, Toews and his Blackhawks teammates aren’t spending their summer sulking, curled up in the fetal position in front of their locker stalls muttering about how they were one bounce away from beating the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference final, and possibly — let’s face it, probably — winning their second straight Stanley Cup, and third in five years.

But the overtime loss in Game 7 and the Kings’ coronation in the Stanley Cup Final still hurt.

“It’s hard to watch,” Toews said. “We just didn’t score that one extra goal. No one really cares anymore. L.A. walked away with the Stanley Cup at the end of the day. There’s not a benefit to that.”

The playoffs exposed a few of the Hawks’ flaws, most notably the longstanding void at second-line center, which sources say have Stan Bowman at least pondering a major move at the draft this weekend. With star centers Ryan Kesler (Vancouver), Jason Spezza (Ottawa) and Joe Thornton (San Jose) all on the trading block, and Colorado’s Paul Stastny possibly hitting the free-agent market, Bowman likely would have to give up a major piece of the Hawks’ core — Patrick Sharp’s name has been bandied about — to make such a move. Especially with Toews and Patrick Kane expected to sign massive contract extensions as soon as July 1 that will kick in for the 2015-16 season.

But the Kings’ five-game victory over the New York Rangers in the Final also served as a reminder of just how agonizingly close the Hawks — as currently constituted — came to another Stanley Cup.

“We didn’t win a championship this year, but we came pretty darn close,” Toews said. “And if it comes to just making small tweaks to our locker room, to our roster, hopefully that’s the only way it has to be. We believe in our group. We love our group of guys right now.”

Defenseman Duncan Keith, up for his second Norris Trophy, said it would be especially tough, and more “personal” to lose a member of the Hawks’ core to a trade. But he acknowledged that the Hawks can get better. In the NHL, most offseason moves happen in a flurry on draft weekend, as all the general managers are under one roof together. Even on a team with the stability of the Hawks, it’s a stressful time. After all, last June, two-time Cup champion Dave Bolland was dealt to Toronto — less than a week after scoring the Cup-winning goal in Boston.

“We’re kind of used to these types of things,” Keith said. “I don’t know if that makes it any easier. You never like to see anybody get traded. But who knows what’ll happen?”

One thing’s for sure, this summer will be a lot different than last summer, which was an endless celebratory bar crawl through Chicago and hometowns across North America and Europe. It’s a longer offseason and a more restful one — which the Hawks can only hope leads to another short and exhausting one next year.

“You can actually get some time to yourself,” Toews said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. When you win, everyone wants a piece of you. It’s all exciting, the attention that the Stanley Cup brings, not only in Chicago but when you have it back in your hometown. [Now] there’s less to do in that regard and more energy to focus on preparing for next year.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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