CHICAGO – Bryan Bickell looks around and sees Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and the rest of a good young nucleus. He likes Chicago, and the Blackhawks are the only NHL team he has ever known.
He is looking forward to the celebration Friday for the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup title, and he wants more.
Bickell is eligible for unrestricted free agency and could cash in after coming up with a big post-season despite playing the last series against Boston with a sprained right knee that raised questions about if he would be able to play at all against the Bruins.
But the 27-year-old Bickell, drafted by Chicago in 2004, wants to remain with the Blackhawks and says he is open to giving the team a discount in order to stay.
“That hometown discount, I think a lot of players that would (take) and there’s a lot of players have took it on our team to play for this team because it’s a great team,” Bickell said Thursday. “We have a great core of guys and we won two Cups in four years and there’s going to be many more to come, and I’m willing to do it because it’s fun and winning is fun.”
With the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season, it looked as if Bickell might have priced himself out of the Blackhawks’ reach after he had nine goals and eight assists in the post-season. The nine goals matched Patrick Kane for second on the team and his 17 points were second only to 19 for Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy awarded to the MVP of the NHL playoffs.
Bickell provided a physical presence in front of the net that proved crucial in the march to the Stanley Cup, especially in the last two rounds against the Kings and Bruins. He had the tying goal with 1:16 left in the third period of Chicago’s 3-2 win in Boston on Monday night that clinched the title.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to keep me here,” said Bickell, from Bowmanville, Ontario. “I enjoy this city. I think this is a second home to me.”
That’s music to the ears of general manager Stan Bowman, who has talked to Bickell’s agent, Todd Diamond, about a new deal. Bowman said the team wants to bring Bickell back and they’re trying to figure it out.
“We are trying to make something work for Bryan to remain with the Blackhawks,” Diamond said in an email to The Associated Press. “It is much simpler in theory than in practice in a diminishing cap environment.”
Plunging right into a short off-season with the draft coming up on Sunday and free agency set to start on July 5, Bowman announced that the Blackhawks plan to buy out the contracts of defenceman Steve Montador and forward Rostislav Olesz. Montador and Olesz did not appear in a game this season for Chicago.
Also Thursday, as the Blackhawks continued their recovery from a bruising series against the Bruins and days’ worth of impromptu parties across the city:
—Forward Marian Hossa said he might need further treatment for the back issue that shelved him for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. One possible option is surgery, which could have a dramatic effect on the Blackhawks’ off-season.
Asked if winning the Stanley Cup was worth it given all his injuries over the past couple years, Hossa didn’t hesitate. “It’s well worth it right now,” he said.
—Viktor Stalberg kept the door open for a possible return to Chicago after he was in and out of the lineup during the playoffs, and Bowman sounded determined to keep defenceman Nick Leddy after he struggled at times against Boston.
Stalberg, a speedy forward who is eligible for unrestricted free agency, said he is looking for consistent playing time and thinks he deserves it after scoring 43 goals and adding 47 assists over the past three seasons.
“I don’t know at this point,” he said when asked about coming back to the Blackhawks. “We’ll see what happens.”
Leddy, who played in every game this year, is a restricted free agent and could receive an offer sheet from another team. He has three NHL seasons under his belt and just turned 22 in March.
“We’re not letting Nick go,” Bowman said. “We’re going to keep him here. I’m not concerned about offer sheets.”
—Jamal Mayers, who played in just 19 games this season and turns 39 in October, said he will make a decision on his future in the next couple weeks. He also talked about how much it meant to him that Toews decided he would be third in line to hoist the Stanley Cup during the on-ice celebration.
“He’s really turned into an unbelievable leader,” Mayers said about Toews. “Everybody knows what he does on the ice, but his conscience and ability to see all pieces of the pie are I think what separate him at such a young age. It kind of reminds me about what people used to talk about Mark Messier.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap