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John McDonough: Blackhawks ‘making the playoffs is the priority’ for 2018-19 season

Chicago president and chief executive officer is optimistic about next season.

2017 NHL Draft - ‘Hockey Is For Everyone’ & Chicago Blackhawks Youth Clinics Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

John McDonough is focused on the Chicago Blackhawks returning to the playoffs after missing the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Blackhawks president and chief executive officer said on WGN Radio on Tuesday that the team “making the playoffs is the top priority” heading into the 2018-19 NHL season.

“I’m optimistic. We had some variables we had to deal with, and there are no excuses because every team has injuries,” McDonough said. “With losing Corey Crawford in December and Marian Hossa not being able to play because of his skin condition, and some younger players we needed to step up in Alex DeBrincat, which he did. Nick Schmaltz in which he did to forge forward.

McDonough’s comments are a shift from the Hawks’ “One Goal” marketing philosophy, which set the bar at Stanley Cup or bust for each season.

The Hawks won three Cups (2010, ‘13, ‘15) and went 3-2 in the Western Conference Final from 2009-15 during their nine-year playoff streak. They also were victorious in 16 of their 24 playoff series in that span.

“There are going to be young players that are going to emerge, but I think it’s going to be a good opportunity,” McDonough said. “I’m optimistic and again to reinitiate, making the playoffs is the top priority. That’s our expectation to put yourself. ... as we saw this year with Las Vegas and we could cite many other examples. Put yourself in a position to make that in deep run. I’m very optimistic.

“(General manager) Stan Bowman has to be judicious with how he goes about shaping this roster to make sure the right pieces and right players are in the right spots. Adding Brandon Manning, Cam Ward as backup goalie and Chris Kunitz, a four-time Stanley Cup champion. I think (Kunitz) is going to add a lot on the ice and off the ice.”

In addition to adding those three players in free agency, Bowman traded Hossa, forward Vinnie Hinostroza, defenseman Jordan Oesterle and a 2019 third-round draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Marcus Kruger, two minor-league players, prospect MacKenzie Entwistle and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

Chicago now has about $5.491 million in salary cap space after making those moves, according to CapFriendly.

The Hawks are reportedly interested in acquiring Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk and forward Jeff Skinner and Montreal forward Max Pacioretty, but nothing has materialized yet.