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Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman expects to be ‘more active’ in free agency

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Chicago will have more flexibility than in the past to spend.

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman knows he has to fix his roster in order for them to get back to the playoffs, and said during the team’s season-ending press conference Sunday at the United Center that the plan is to be active in the free agent market.

“I would expect us to be more active in the summer free agent market than we have in years past,” Bowman said. “First of all, we have the cap flexibility to do that. We haven’t been in this position before. This is probably the first time ever we’ve had this much money to spend.

“Doesn’t mean we’re going to spend all of it on July 1,” he said. “We have to sort of look over the next horizon of years and plan for that, but we weren’t in this position a year ago or two years ago. We were shopping in a different marketplace.”

The Blackhawks should have over $20 million in cap space for next season, according to CapFriendly. At the end of the regular season, the Blackhawks had 15 players under contract for next season at the NHL level, with a projected cap hit of just over $60.6 million. Late last year, commissioner Gary Bettman said he the salary cap was expected to rise to $83 million, giving Bowman plenty financial space to make additions to the roster.

Those 15 players under contract for next season do not include veterans Marcus Kruger, Chris Kunitz and Cam Ward, who are all unrestricted free agents and not expected to return. Four other players are restricted free agents: David Kampf, Brendan Perlini, Gustav Forsling and Slater Koekkoek and would likely return on low salary cap hits around $1 million.

Some of that salary cap space will need to be set aside for 2020 contract extensions to forwards Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. But Bowman should still have the opportunity to improve upon last summer’s underwhelming free agent signings of Ward, Kunitz and former Blackhawk Brandon Manning.