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Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman won’t spend big in free agency, seeks certain style of player

Hawks GM Stan Bowman

Hawks GM Stan Bowman

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Updated: July 2, 2011 12:10AM



Stan Bowman’s free-agent lists are made, a certain type of player will be targeted and the Blackhawks’ general manager will take an aggressive approach when NHL free agency begins at 11 a.m. today.

But don’t look for a major splash.

“We’re not going to be going ­after guys that get huge, long-term, big-dollar contracts because that doesn’t fit in with what we’re trying to do,” Bowman said Thursday.

So while Bowman might see what top free agent Brad Richards wants, he’ll focus on role players and restocking depth, even though the Hawks are about $11 million ­under the salary cap after trading defenseman Brian Campbell and his $7.1 million cap hit to the Florida Panthers.

As Bowman sees it, the Hawks have enough top-caliber skill with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Dave Bolland up front and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the blue line. So as far as free agents, think in terms of Maxime Talbot instead of Richards.

“We’re looking for a certain style of player,” Bowman said. “If you’re looking for a No. 1 center or that kind of player, maybe [the free-agent class] is not as strong. That’s debatable. But we haven’t been focusing on that because we’re comfortable with the players we have in those roles. We’re trying to get a different kind of player into our mix here. It’s a good group for that.”

That’s not to say he won’t try to sign players capable of being among the top six forwards.

“A player that can play in your top six doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ­going to make huge dollars,” Bowman said. “There are certain players that we have in mind that we think could play with our top guys.”

The Hawks already might have those players. Bowman still is in the early stages of negotiations with wingers Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg, restricted free agents who saw time in key roles last season. There’s also the hope that winger Rostislav Olesz, who was acquired in the Campbell trade, lives up to his potential.

That being said, the Hawks aren’t hiding their effort to add grittier, tougher players, especially after Troy Brouwer was traded to the Washington Capitals.

Bowman made his first move along those lines late Wednesday night, acquiring the rights to defenseman Steve Montador from the Buffalo Sabres for the conditional seventh-round draft pick acquired from the Panthers for Tomas ­Kopecky. The Hawks signed Montador to a four-year, $11 million deal Thursday.

The Hawks also are intrigued by what type of physical player Stalberg can become.

“It’s an intriguing package there, and it’s just figuring out the best way to utilize him,” Bowman said. “He’s got growth in his game that he can improve on.”

Stalberg is one of the Hawks’ three restricted free agents. His exceptional speed transformed into improved physical play as last season progressed.

Stalberg, Frolik and defenseman Chris Campoli are in line for new deals, barring any serious breakdowns in negotiations.

“We’ve had discussions,” Bowman said of the three. “We’ll call them in the early stages. It could stretch a bit longer. [But] the goal is to get those guys done in short order here.”



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