CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 12: (L-R) Marian Hossa #81, Jonathan Toews #19, Brandon Saad #20, Johnny Oduya #27 and Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after Saad scored a goal in the second period against the Boston Bruins in Game One of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at United Center on June 12, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Wirtz vows to retain ‘Hawks core: ‘We’re not going to do what we did in 2010’


Two weeks after GM Stan Bowman said that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews would be in Chicago ‘forever,‘ owner Rocky Wirtz went ahead and echoed that statement.

“I do [think we can], because you always can work the budgets accordingly,” Wirtz told the Chicago Tribune about keeping Kane and Toews for life.

“I don’t see any reason they can’t be. We know we have a hard cap (and) we know we can work it.”

Kane and Toews are both set for unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the issue with 2016 is that Chicago already has $41 million committed to just seven players (Patrik Sharp, Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford).

In addition to Kane and Toews, will have to deal with RFAs Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy and Calder Trophy nominee Brandon Saad, all of whom are up in ’16 as well.

There’s also the issue of Bowman’s post-Cup spending spree.

Eyebrows were raised when Chicago guaranteed Crawford $36 million (and extended him through his 35th birthday). While he silenced critics during the recent Stanley Cup run, Crawford has never appeared in more than 57 regular season games and spent last year in a timeshare with Ray Emery, who had 17 wins to Crawford’s 19.

(It’s also not like Chicago’s goaltending cupboard is bare — they used a second-round pick in 2010 to select WHL Everett’s Kent Simpson and signed Finnish league star Antti Raanta this summer.)

The Bickell deal (four years, $16 million) was another eyebrow-raiser, even though the power forward was in line for a raise on the $541,667 he made annually on his last deal. The 27-year-old, who averages 34 points a season and 12:39 TOI per game, cashed in on a successful playoff run and a relatively weak free agent market.

But whatever the case with Chicago’s current financial landscape, Wirtz remains confident it’ll have no bearing on keeping his core players in town — unlike in 2010, when the cap-strapped ‘Hawks won the Cup but then dealt away Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg, among others.

“We’re not going to do what we did in 2010: Wake up the next day and say you have to trade or move half your team,” Wirtz explained. “That’s not going to happen.

“That was something we did once and it’s something we’re not going to do again.”

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.