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Toews finds it tough bidding farewell to ex-mates

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WINNIPEG -- The cruel reality of the NHL's salary cap has been slapping Jonathan Toews in the face all summer. The Blackhawks captain has watched a portion of his team get dismantled due to the $59.4 million cap, and he's wondering what lurks around the next corner.

Already Toews has watched GM Stan Bowman trade away Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and Colin Fraser. Adam Burish signed in Dallas and John Madden won't be returning either.

"Some of these guys, before anything happened, immediately after the season they were hearing rumors from their agents. They didn't know what to expect, if they were going to stay," Toews told Monday evening from his parents' kitchen.

It can be even more difficult for those ex-teammates "when they get their Cup day just to be constantly reminded that they were traded."

But, as Toews also noted, it is business. The Blackhawks will not be the same as they were for the last several years, culminating with the Stanley Cup championship last month.

"Rules are rules, I guess," Toews said.

At least he takes solace in the fact that the Hawks won before the inevitable dismantling began.

"This apparently would have to happen one way or another, if we won or lost," he said. "It's very easy for me to say something because I'm still there and I have a lot of job security as far as I know, but it's not my place to comment on how they feel. It sucks for me to lose my buddies, great teammates, but those are the guys that have to face the reality of going to a new franchise, a new city to start over."

Toews has to face the reality of picking up the pieces in Chicago and making the Blackhawks into a legit contender for a repeat.

No matter what has happened this summer, he firmly believes that is possible.

"Absolutely, but we all know, the so-called core players on the team, that there is still a lot of improvement to make," Toews said. "Kaner (
Patrick Kane) and I each think there is so much more improving that we can do as individuals. Duncs (Duncan Keith) is coming off a career year, but there is still more there. Nemo (Antti Niemi) is coming off his rookie year, but there is great potential in all of these players."

Toews just completed a whirlwind two days with the Stanley Cup in his hometown of Winnipeg, where he was greeted and followed like a rock star. Now he also has to face the reality of getting back to training because amazingly camp is only two months away.

"Oh, it's depressing," Toews said, smiling. "Not that I don't love hockey and want to get out there, but once you're back into it you're back into it for seven, eight, nine months or whatever it is. It's long, so you have to get away from the game eventually. It's soon going to be time to be ready, and that'll be the biggest challenge, making sure I'm ready for another 82-game season. It's something I'm working towards.

"The way I look at it is these last two days have been so special, but I'm glad they were earlier in the summer because I'm exhausted."

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