CHICAGO (CBS) Handcuffed by the salary cap after winning the Stanley Cup, general manager Stan Bowman was limited in what he could do to improve the team heading into the following season. As a result, the 2010 and 2011 versions of the Blackhawks looked drastically different.

“We’re not in the salary-cap crunch that we were in,” Bowman told the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc about this offseason. “We’re able to obviously do some different things and we’re not as stuck as we were a year ago.”

With the salary cap expected to increase, Bowman will be able to do more than just re-sign some of the team’s players with expiring contracts.

“We have room to add players,” Bowman said. “Having that additional flexibility is going to help us not only in the summer but during the season when there may be opportunities to pick up players. But you have to have cap space to do that.

“We’re certainly going to approach the offseason with that optimism and excitement that we can bring in some new players. Once we find out where we’re at and get our [restricted free agents] signed we’ll know exactly where we’re at.”

Not only will Bowman work to re-sign restricted free agents Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg and Chris Campoli, he can try to tie up Patrick Sharp, who will be an unrestricted free agent after next season.

“I certainly think we’re going to have more stability than we did a year ago when we had to bring in a lot of new players but that was for a different reason,” Bowman said. “That was salary-cap related. There will be some new faces coming in. It’s always good to bring in some new faces and some new looks in there. That’s what we’ll find out over the next 10 days.”

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