By Chris Emma —

(CBS) Blackhawks general manger Stan Bowman is a busy man this time of year, regardless of the team’s cap-driven predicament. But with his Stanley Cup champions signed to 14 players at nearly $65 million and a hard cap set Tuesday at $71.4 million, it’s time for Bowman to work.

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Trade talks have been steady for Bowman, who’s surrounded by league colleagues at the NHL’s meetings in Las Vegas this week. And that phone has been busy, too, including a teleconference with reporters Wednesday afternoon before this weekend’s draft.

“We have a lot of plans, we’ve been thinking of at that ($71.4 million) number,” Bowman said. “It’s not something that’s good or bad, it’s something we’ve been preparing for. We’re just going to move forward now.”

Among the Blackhawks’ likely plans includes exploring potential trades to eliminate the $5.9 million owed to Patrick Sharp and $4 million for Bryan Bickell, each of whom have recently lacked the productivity the contracts rewarded. However, even if both Sharp and Bickell were playing at a higher level, Chicago is committed long term to Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford.

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“It’s still early,” Bowman said. “Those things heat up as you get closer to the draft. I would characterize it as a typical time of year.”

Part of the trade-off for maintaining an elite core — one now comprised of three-time champions — is facing a battle to stay within the NHL’s salary cap restrictions, those attempting to create parity in the league, not see a team win three titles in six years.

Bowman must attempt to clear cap space and seek low-priced free-agent signings. In the end, the Blackhawks are vying to put the proper puzzle pieces around their core in the hopes of building another championship team.

“There’s so much talk about players leaving, but I’m excited about next year,” Bowman said. “We’re going to have a lot of the main pieces back. We’ve got guys ready for bigger roles and exciting new faces coming to the organization. This is an exciting part of the year, to find the future Blackhawks. There’s lot to be optimistic and excited about next year and the years to come.”

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Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.