The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t the team you’d expect to be making deals at this point in the season, but they did just that earlier this week. The Blackhawks’ surprise trade for former teammate Kris Versteeg proved that GM Stan Bowman isn’t content with just sitting idle. With the big first trade of the season finally over with, the question is begging to be asked: Who’s next?
Johnny Oduya’s contribution to the Chicago Blackhawks is both understated, and mind-boggling. In the 83 games he has played with Chicago, he has skated away with no points only 13 times. Oduya was picked up in one of the most underrated trades in Bowman’s time with Chicago, where he was acquired with only a second and third-round draft pick going the other way. The Swedish defenseman went from 13 points in 63 games with the Jets, to winning a Stanley Cup in less than a year and a half. Now, the Blackhawks are looking to promote some of their home-grown prospects, and Oduya could be the odd man out.
The Blackhawks are sitting on one exceptional defensive prospect, in Adam Clendening. Clendening, a 2011 second-round draft pick, put up 46 points in 73 games with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs last season, going +17 despite the team missing the playoffs. Clendening currently has 16 points in 18 games this year. His physicality and offensive touch are huge assets to his game, and there is no question that he is ready for the NHL. Clendening could jump into the Blackhawks’ lineup in a third-pairing role, allowing Nick Leddy to move up into the top four, a place he needs to be if he wants to stay within the organization.
Oduya’s top-four defensive abilities are to be desired in many markets in the League, with notable possibilities being the Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers.
The Flyers have picked up their game recently, but have a long way to go before they get out of the hole that they dug for themselves early on in the year. Now that the offense is producing, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren needs to beef up his back-end, and accept the fact that Chris Pronger is not coming back. Aside from being reunited with 2013 Blackhawks’ teammate Ray Emery, Oduya could fit in well with their system, using his great puck management to get the forwards in the offensive zone quicker, all while staying defensively responsible. The Flyers don’t have a lot of players the Blackhawks would find valuable on their NHL roster, but prospects or draft picks would strengthen the prospect pool that Clendening would vacate in the wake of this trade.
In Edmonton, GM Craig MacTavish‘s job is on the line, as the Oilers have found themselves in last place league-wide. Changes need to be made, and bringing in Oduya could be just the move they need to make. Although the Oilers need to make moves in both the offensive and defensive departments, the blue-line in Edmonton is almost laughable when looking at the stacked lineup that the Blackhawks have in that position. The Oilers desperately need someone to help ease the pain of their atrocious goaltending situation, and contribute offensively at the same time. Oduya’s role up North would be very similar to the one he currently fills with the Blackhawks, which is a puck-moving defenseman that is adept at getting possession, and getting the puck out of the zone. The Oilers would have to offer up one of their energetic young players, as they need to retain all the future considerations they can.
Is Johnny Oduya really about to leave Chicago? Probably not. An affordable, effective defenseman is exactly what the Blackhawks need if they want to take their best shot at repeating as Stanley Cup Champions. This isn’t a trade that can happen at the deadline, because Clendening would need time to adjust to the NHL game before the Blackhawks’ embark on another playoff journey (if they make it). The window of possibility for this trade is a small one, and unless Bowman is approached by another team, it will not happen. The Blackhawks will not shop a player like Oduya given the position they are in, so for the time being, it looks like #27 is staying in the Windy City.
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