It's back to business as Stan Bowman's summer of Stanley Cup celebrating is over. The Chicago Blackhawks general manager has been busy this week preparing for training camp by inking goaltender Corey Crawford to a six-year extension and now handing defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson a five-year, $20.5 million deal, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.
Hjalmarsson is entering the final season of a four-year, $14 million contract that the Blackhawks matched after the San Jose Sharks signed him to an offer sheet in 2010. After two Cups and developing into a reliable defensive presence, Bowman did good giving "Super Nintendo" Hjalmarsson a $600,000 average annual raise.
Here's where the fun part comes for Bowman. After signing Crawford and now Hjalmarsson this week, the Blackhawks currently have around $59 million in cap space tied up among 13 players for next season, according to CapGeek. Of course, the salary cap is expected to rise for the 2014-15 season, but how much so could affect whether or not a trade or buyout needs to occur for some added breathing room.
Keeping an eye on the future, both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews see their contracts expire in the summer of 2015. Those deals will be pricey. But those are concerns for another day. Right now, Bowman's locked up his core players through at least the next two season and another Stanley Cup run is the expectation and a good bet for the Blackhawks this season.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy