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Blackhawks will do ‘everything we can’ to keep Bickell; no salary purge expected
Bryan Bickell hasn’t completely played himself out of Chicago with his stellar postseason performance. Not yet, at least.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman told the Sun-Times on Tuesday that “we’ll do everything we can to bring him back.”
Bickell is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and considering he has eight goals and five assists in 17 playoff games, is due for a massive raise from his current $600,000 salary. With the salary cap dropping from $70.2 million to $64.3 million next season, and with other players needing new contracts, the Hawks will have to get creative to give Bickell the $3 million or more he’s likely to command on the open market.
But Bowman wants to keep him, saying the Hawks helped make him the player he is today.
“I hope so, yeah,” Bowman said. “Bick and the organization go back a long ways. I’ve had a lot of talks with Bryan over the years, going back to our days in Norfolk (AHL) when he first turned pro. He was in and out of the lineup a lot, was inconsistent as a young player, and he had a hard time figuring it all out. So I think back to all those years, Bryan and I have had a lot of discussions over the years on how we can help him be a better player. We’ve worked together and he deserves the credit for sure, but we’ve also helped him get to the point he’s at. We’ve had a lot history together, and we certainly want to continue that. If anything, we’re excited for him taking the next step, cause he’s always had this potential. And now it’s nice to see him bringing it all together and being the player that we wanted him to be.”
Bowman wouldn’t say if that means Bickell would have to give the Hawks a hometown discount to stay.
“At this point, that’s something we’re going to get to obviously in a couple weeks,” Bowman said. “RIght ow, we’re not focusing on his contract, we’re just trying to look at the games. We have a good relationship with his agent, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring him back.”
Defenseman Nick Leddy will be another offseason priority as a restricted free agent. Forwards Viktor Stalberg and Michal Handzus, defenseman Michal Rozsival and goaltender Ray Emery also will be unrestricted free agents.
Bowman said there won’t be a massive salary purge this summer, like there was after the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
“We’re in a much better spot than we were a couple years ago, there’s no question about that,” he said. “If you look back, our three best players that season were [Duncan] Keith, [Patrick] Kane and [Jonathan] Toews, and those three players were all getting huge increases in their salaries. We don’t have that phenomenon now. We don’t have our three best players going to take monstrous jumps in salary.”
Nor do the Hawks have any massive bonuses to worry about, like Toews’ bump for winning the Conn Smythe in 2010.
“We won’t have the exact same team back,” Bowman said. “It’s an understandable concern. But if you look at the number of changes we’ll make relative to that year, it won’t be close.”