Stanley Cup Media Day notebook: Bowman not worried about cap crunch; Richards back in Tampa; Blackhawks remember Reif, Montador

Stanley Cup Media Day notebook: Bowman not worried about cap crunch; Richards back in Tampa; Blackhawks remember Reif, Montador

TAMPA — As the Chicago Blackhawks go for their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, one of the storylines heading into this series with the Tampa Bay Lightning is that this is the “end” for this group and that GM Stan Bowman will have to overhaul his roster this summer due to salary cap restrictions.

The Blackhawks will indeed have to shed some salary before next season once new contracts for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews kick in and an extension is potentially handed out to restricted free agent Brandon Saad, plus whatever RFAs and unrestricted free agents Bowman’s chooses to bring back. But he’s been through this before -- in 2010 after their first Cup win of this recent run -- so he’s not worried the work that lay ahead of him this summer.

“The way I look at it, every team is going to have changes going into next year,” Bowman said. “We’re not the only ones. There’s going to be some new players.

“I think there’s a lot of ways to look at that. If you look at it from a positive, you’re going to have some new blood. You’re going to have some guys that weren’t part of this. This is a great experience for our players. For the guys that are new to our team in the future, they’re going to want to get to this point themselves. So you have that new blood in the system going forward.

“It’s a challenge. The salary cap, it’s a system we all play under. We’ve been through it before. There’s changes to be made to every team, and we’re no different. We certainly have expectations that we want to keep this going. The main players are going to be back. You have to rely on some young guys to step into bigger roles. We’re seeing that play itself out here over the season, players like Saad and Teravainen, young guys that are going to play bigger roles going forward. We have some other young players that are going to get opportunities next year as well. I think that’s not so much the focus for this right now.”

The NHL's salary cap is expected to be around $71 million, according to Commissioner Gary Bettman. That's only $2 million more than this season. Tough decisions will need to be made, but Bowman has been able to keep the Blackhawks a contender before. Can he do it again?

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When you enter one side of Amalie Arena, you can’t help but run into the statue of Dave Andreychuk, the Lightning captain who helped lead the franchise to its first Stanley Cup back in 2004. Over a decade later, he’s now working for the team as one of his former teammates is on the other side of this Final matchup.

In 2004, Brad Richards led all players in scoring in the postseason with 12 goals and 26 points, which helped him capture the Conn Smythe Trophy. After stops in Dallas and New York, where he was back in the Final last year with the Rangers, the 35-year old is now a member of the Blackhawks, and Andreychuk couldn’t be happier for a guy “that just loves to play and loves to compete.”

“I’ve been watching the playoffs and I’ve been in contact with him,” he said. “He’s excited to be here knowing that his last Cup was in this building. But he’s another one of those guys that it’s living proof that it’s hard to get back here again. For him, he’s going to have to seize that opportunity."

Last season, the Lightning honored that 2004 championship team. Richards was unable to attend, but he and Martin St. Louis, who was a vital part of that team, didn’t miss the ceremony, even if they were on the road with the Rangers.

“I think it’s great,” Richards said. “It’s great what they did last year. Me and Marty watching at the hotel room with 10 years (anniversary) and seeing everyone on the ice. [It was] great to see the guys again. Such a special time and it really made hockey something in the city, so it’s great they honor those guys. “

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Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks has more than their share of tragedies affect the team during the 2014-15 season. Just before Christmas, assistant equipment manager Clint Reif took his own life. Then in February Steve Montador, who was a teammate for many of the team’s current players, passed away at the age of 35.

“I just think that the team finds a way to rely on one another to get through tough moments, tough stages, tough situations, injuries, losses,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “We could go on.

“That’s the road of trying to make the playoffs, the ups and downs of this team. We find a way to get back on track quickly. That’s kind of what the playoffs are all about. The best thing about winning the Cup is visiting the road and trying to get the Cup.

“It’s never going to be smooth or easy. The great moments are spectacular. The tough moments, you can get angry from it, you can get motivated from it, find a way through it.”

Those deaths bonded an already tight group even more and the CR stickers on the backs of their helmets and work Daniel Carcillo is doing to help players speak out about issues are reminders of missed members of their family.

“I think as players, you have to find a way, find the strength to get through those things as players and as people,” said Duncan Keith. “There’s nothing else you can do than remember them and mourn them.”

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One-timers

Matt Carle on if there's a book on slowing down Jonathan Toews: "I don’t think so. If there is one, nobody has written it and nobody knows how to write it. You just have to try and contain him. He plays in the hard areas and plays the right way. Obviously, he gets rewarded for it.”

Brian Bickell on his lack of goals this postseason: "Hopefully I’ve been saving them for this round.”

Marian Hossa on choosing Chicago as a free agent in 2009: “[My agent and I] had Chicago No. 1 and Chicago wanted me so I think it was an easy call for both sides and we agreed right away.”

Ondrej Palat on seeing Jon Cooper’s evolution as a coach, dating back to their AHL days together: “He’s been great for me and for all the guys. He has that winning attitude. He wants to win, whatever it takes.”

Johnny Oduya on talk of the Blackhawks’ future cap crunch: “Of course it's come up during the year once or twice, but it's not really something that we use as either motivation or discouragement. We know the rules and regulations and how it [salary cap] works, but for us to be focused on something else than what's going on right now, I think that would be stupid."

Nikita Kucherov on what makes the “Triplets” line work: “I think we're smart players, I think we think the same way and try to help each other all over the ice. I think this is what has helped for us, and that's why we have success.”

Duncan Keith on the key to Cup success: “I don't think you get to the Final by feeling teams out early on in the series. I think you have to go out and get after them and worry about your own games.”

Jon Cooper on Steven Stamkos stepping up as a leader: “For a guy that scored a lot of goals, has done a lot of unbelievable things in this league, Stammer pushed everybody ahead of himself. I think you’ve watched his playoff progression, especially early on when he was getting hammered when he wasn’t scoring in the Detroit series. But nobody talked about how he was playing defensively or how he was winning face-offs, how he was doing this. He accepted different roles with the team. Ultimately that is the ultimate sacrifice. You’re saying, ‘Okay, I’ll do this, this and this for our team to win.’ He never complained about this. Just know this is part of the process, how it works. That’s what makes him a great leader.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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