The Blackhawks are not waiting until July to do their free agent shopping. They resigned Jamal Mayers, last week, to a one year deal and now they have given defenseman Johnny Oduya a three year contract extension. It was no secret that both Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville were fans of Oduya. He is a puck moving defenseman who fits in with exactly what Q wants to do on the ice. This is a pretty good signing for the Hawks. Oduya solidified the Hawks blue line and was able to eat up meaningful minutes. Having him here for a full season should take away some ice time from Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith which is a good thing. Also, Nick Leddy played his best hockey of the season when he was paired with Oduya.
Oduya’s new deal is for 3 years with a $3.375 million cap hit per season. There was some outrage in the Twitterverse over the amount of money given to Oduya. I think this is a fair price considering the kind of money that has been thrown at defensemen in the last couple years. Anytime you feel upset about $3.375 million for Oduya just remember Jay Bouwmeester is making $6.8 million and James Wisniewski is getting paid $5.5 million. There, don’t you feel better?
Oduya’s salary does raise questions on what the Blackhawks are going to do with their defense next year. It is safe to say Oduya and Leddy will be the second pair, behind Seabrook and Keith. That leaves the 3rd pairing for Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson. The problem is Montador is set to make $2.75 million and Hjalmarsson is owed $3.5 million. That is an awful lot of money to have invested in your 5th and 6th defensemen.
Is Montador’s concussion issues worse than the Blackhawks letting on? Do the Hawks want to trade Montador or Hjalmarsson, or both? These are all valid questions. Hjalmarsson’s name has been part of trade rumors for awhile, and I don’t think its a secret the Blackhawks would like to move his salary. Hjalmarsson has not lived up to his $3.5 million salary and he might be due for a change of scenery. If the Hawks wanted to move one of the two, Hjalmarsson would be the easier to trade. He is younger, still has some upside and one of my least favorite words in sports, “potential.” If the Hawks can move one or both of these defensemen that will free up some more cap space to go after a big name free agent. But, with a rather weak free agent market I am not expecting much action out of the Hawks front office come July. It will interesting to see, on draft night, if the Blackhawks start moving some pieces around.
Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE