For those Blackhawks mentioned in trade rumors, it’s difficult to block out the noise ahead of Monday’s deadline

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CHICAGO — Erik Gustafsson said his wife is ready to move — if it comes to that.

Robin Lehner opted not to talk with reporters Friday.

It’s hard to avoid the elephant in the locker room. Gustafsson, Lehner, Brandon Saad and others on the Blackhawks roster are the subject of trade rumors as Monday’s 2 p.m. deadline could bring some movement from the front office.

The Hawks’ wild-card window is shrinking — they entered Saturday six points behind the Flames for the final Western Conference playoff spot with three other teams ahead of them — and general manager Stan Bowman has to weigh a last-ditch postseason push against the reality that some key players could be too costly to re-sign.

Lehner admitted after a 6-3 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday — when he and the defense gave up five third-period goals — that it’s hard to block out the trade-rumor noise and focus on hockey.

“It’s part of the game, but yeah, for sure it is,” the goaltender said.

“I try not to look at the phone or hear anything on the TV or radio or anything, but it’s hard. It’s on here every time too. But just like I said before, if this happens, it’s happening. It’s something I can’t control.”

Gustafsson, 27, is the most likely trade candidate because the defenseman has a defined role on power play and an affordable cap hit of $1.2 million. He was a healthy scratch Friday against the Predators — a game the Hawks won 2-1 in overtime — a sign the Hawks don’t want to expose him to injury in the final days before the deadline.

He has said he’d prefer to stay in Chicago.

“Back in the day when you were single, so it was just me,” he said. “Now I’ve got to think about my family too. I’ve got two kids. But if it happens, we talked about it, too, me and my wife. She’s ready if it’s happening.

“But we’re trying not to think about it too much. We’re right here now in Chicago. We’ll see what happens after Sunday.”

The Hawks also have to consider that Gustafsson will become an unrestricted free agent after season, and he has competition on the roster in Adam Boqvist, who’s younger, cheaper and under team control for at least two (likely three) more seasons. They also have Ian Mitchell and others in the pipeline.

The Hawks also face a conundrum at goaltender. Both Lehner and Corey Crawford will be unrestricted free agents after the season.

Lehner, 28, is seven years younger than Crawford and could command an annual cap hit of as much as $8 million. The Hawks might have to shed some contracts through trades and buyouts to afford him, given other needs.

Conversely, Crawford’s Stanley Cup resume could entice a playoff-bound team, or Bowman could stand pat at goalie and settle the situation in the offseason.

Saad’s $6 million cap hit through next season, after which he will be an unrestricted free agent, and playoff experience makes him someone the Hawks could dangle to contenders.

The uncertainty surrounding teammates’ futures — coupled with the pressure to salvage dwindling playoff aspirations — can weigh on a team.

“It’s a little bit in the locker room right now,” Gustafsson said. “But we know we can play much better, every one of us.”

Predators coach John Hynes, who’s team is in the wild-card hunt with the Hawks, said it takes “mental toughness” to block out the distractions of trades and scoreboard watching.

“What we talk about — control what we can control,” Hynes said before Friday’s game at the United Center. “You can’t control any of those things, so it’s about focusing on what it is you can control. It’s your game prep, it’s focusing on the game when you’re in the game, it’s about your next shift. It’s about what’s going on in those situations.”

“You can get so wound up looking at the big picture.”


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