The Chicago Blackhawks are hoping several offseason additions and the improved health of their No. 1 goaltender will help them get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blackhawks added to their depth at each position, signing goaltender Cam Ward, 34, (one-year contract), forward Chris Kunitz, 38, (one-year contract) and defenseman Brandon Manning, 28, (two-year contract) on July 1 after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2007-08.
Goaltender Corey Crawford missed the second half of last season with an upper-body injury and said July 27 that he still wasn't 100 percent but hopes to be ready for training camp in September.
"Treatments are going well and we're making small steps and I'm getting a little better, so it's a process," Crawford said at the annual Blackhawks Convention. "It's been a process since I left in December. It hasn't been easy, but I'll be back. ... Right now, we're looking good. We've done a lot to get where I'm at right now, and I'm feeling good and hopefully I can get to a point soon where I can jump back on the ice."
Ward, who played 13 seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, was signed to ensure the Blackhawks have a veteran if Crawford can't start the season.
"First off, he's got the experience, played over 600 games in his career; that's an important factor with somebody who has a pedigree of winning and can handle the load if need be," Chicago general manager Stan Bowman said. "Obviously, we're not expecting him to have to carry the load, but it's nice knowing you have a goalie in Cam who's played a lot of hockey."
The Blackhawks could make another move, but if there are no other changes, they will need more from everyone, starting with their veteran players.
"For myself, personally, it's finding that humility and having that chip on your shoulder and having that attitude that you can't take anything for granted," captain Jonathan Toews said. "Just because you had success in the past doesn't mean you're going to have it in the future. You have to work for every little thing that you get. We have a lot of young guys who are still eager to improve themselves and find a better result. But we have some guys who have that experience in the room and are all willing to show that we have better than we showed last year."
Toews, 30, scored 20 goals last season, his fewest in his 11 NHL seasons. Left wing Brandon Saad, 25, had 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) in 82 games, with six goals coming in his first six games. Right wing Patrick Kane was the steadiest among the forwards, leading Chicago with 76 points (27 goals, 49 assists in 82 games), but it was his lowest total since he had 64 points in 61 games in 2014-15 when he missed time because of injury.
"I'm just trying to work on things within my game, with the body that's going to help certain things on the ice, whether it's lateral movement or agility, speed or explosiveness," Kane said. "Lot of different things."
Chicago is encouraged by a group of young forwards that includes Nick Schmaltz, 22, and Alex DeBrincat, 20. Each had 52 points last season (Schmaltz: 21 goals, 31 assists; DeBrincat: 28 goals, 24 assists).
"Maybe we have some more, different things to be concerned with at the start of this year," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But I still think, coming off last year, with our experienced guys, new guys, fresh guys and their experiences, adding it to the mix with younger guys and getting a little bit better, we have some growth and excitement."
Manning should bolster the defensemen group, which likely will not include Gustav Forsling for the first month of the season because of a wrist injury. Connor Murphy, 25, Erik Gustafsson, 26, and Jan Rutta, 28, should get more opportunities, and 19-year-old Henri Jokiharju could make the team out of training camp.
"I think a lot of people may be talking about the Blackhawks having a correction," Quenneville said. "We'd like to say we're going to have a correction, getting back to where we want to be, and that's like what we were in the past."
The Blackhawks acquired forward Marcus Kruger from the Arizona Coyotes on July 12 in a trade that sent defenseman Jordan Oesterle and forwards Marian Hossa and Vinnie Hinostroza to Arizona. Kruger played seven seasons for Chicago from 2010-17 and won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015.
"Now I have the chance [with the Blackhawks again] and I really want to do something good with it," Kruger said. "I couldn't think of a better place than here to come back and show that I can play and be a good player. I'm really excited to show that and happy to be back."