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Salary cap a major factor as Blackhawks weigh roster decisions

How the Blackhawks go about shaping the roster up against the salary cap.

With opening night a week away, general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville have some tough decisions to make about the Blackhawks roster.

And in trying to maneuver around razor-thin salary-cap space, the lines between what's best for the team from a hockey point of view and what's best from a business point of view become blurred.

It's a tough but essential dance the Hawks must do in order to put the best team possible on the ice against the Rangers that night and beyond.

"Sometimes we're making hockey decisions. Sometimes we're making business decisions," Quenneville said. "You have to sometimes put them all together ... and give us our best chance under the economic constraints."

Defenseman Michal Rozsival is still recovering from a fractured ankle he suffered in last season's playoffs. Do the Hawks try to save space by putting Rozsival on long-term injured reserve? And if so, who takes his place? Perhaps Viktor Svedberg or 23-year-old Erik Gustafsson can get an extended look.

Then there is the glut of forwards the Hawks have under contract, with fringe players including Viktor Tikhonov, Kyle Baun and Vincent Hinostroza fighting for roster spots with players like Ryan Garbutt, whom the Hawks acquired from the Stars in the Patrick Sharp trade, and Artemi Panarin, acquired from the KHL and out with an upper-body injury.

There are many decisions to make in a short period of time.

"We're one of maybe 10 to 15 teams in the same position," Bowman said. "Obviously you have to make it work financially. Those things tend to play themselves out. If you look back historically at the roster on opening night, it's usually a different roster come March because things change."

The salary cap could come into play in that regard. Quenneville said the team in recent years has started some players on two-way deals in Rockford to help the Hawks get under the cap. Players on two-way deals get paid based on which league they play in, the AHL or NHL, while players on one-way deals make the same amount of money regardless of where they play.

"Stan and that group do a great job managing all that," Quenneville said, "and we try to make hockey decisions, but you understand there's a lot of business to it."

chine@tribpub.com

Twitter @ChristopherHine

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