The Chicago Blackhawks want to get back to the Stanley Cup final.
The Game 7 Western Conference finals loss in overtime to the eventual Cup champion Los Angeles Kings still weighs on their minds. The 2013 Cup champions are focused on bettering last season’s finish.
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”It’s motivation knowing our potential and how close we came,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said ahead of training camp on Friday at Notre Dame’s campus. ”(We’re) using that as a source of energy to improve upon.”
The roster will look slightly different by the end of camp. The Blackhawks are still around $2.2 million above the NHL salary cap and will need to make a move, possibly in the form of a trade, to get below the cap before the puck drops on the regular season Oct. 9 at Dallas.
Veteran defenseman Duncan Keith, the Norris Trophy winner, said the team knows a move is coming.
”Sure, I think about it,” Keith said Thursday. ”But it’s not something that’s a topic of conversation every day amongst us players. We all kind of know the business and obviously, management has to make some decisions. Trades are always part of the game and part of the business.”
The Blackhawks’ big splash in offseason free agency came in the signing of 34-year old center Brad Richards, a key component in the New York Rangers’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Richards, who was signed to a one-year, $2 million deal, will start camp alongside second line wingers Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad.
The bigger news from the summer came a week after the Richards signing, when Chicago announced identical eight-year, $84 million contract extensions for stars Toews and Kane.
The Hawks also traded Brandon Bollig to Calgary for a draft pick, but the roster paring is not done. Emerging players could help facilitate a trade, and several rookies will try to emulate what Saad did last season when he forced his way into the lineup based on strong play. That will be tough this year, given what little latitude the team has with its packed roster, but one player who could make that happen is 20-year old top prospect Teuvo Teravainen.
General manager Stan Bowman did his best to tamp down expectations on when Teravainen might contribute in Chicago, saying ”It doesn’t make sense to try and make predictions” of which players could blossom in the preseason.
”Players kind of sort that out for us by the way they play,” Bowman said. ”(Teravainen) is a tremendous talent and he’s going to be a great player, whether it’s in two weeks or two months or two years.”
Whatever the eventual roster ends looks like, Quenneville said the team realizes they ”left something out on the table last season.”
”It was a disappointing ending, and I’m sure everyone has the right focus and the right preparation going into this season,” Quenneville said. ”We’ve got a majority of the guys coming back, and they fit well together.”