Curiouser and curiouser, this offseason gets.
Previous reports had linked a strong interest between Chicago Blackhawks free agent defenseman Johnny Oduya and the Buffalo Sabres. Oduya held off on signing a new deal outside of Chicago until General Manager Stan Bowman could free some salary cap space (with some reports saying Oduya turned down a 3-year, $15 million offer out of Buffalo while waiting for the Blackhawks).
Bowman wasn’t able to create space, so Oduya has moved on.
But not to Buffalo. Instead, Oduya signed a 2-year, $3.75 (per year) million deal with the Dallas Stars, a team the Blackhawks gave Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns last week. Meaning the Stars essentially traded a second-line defenseman and a fourth-line winger for a second-line forward with three Stanley Cups, a better second-line defenseman with two Cups and an in-division opponent’s top defensive prospect.
Oi, Stan. Oi.
We’ve been ready for some time to accept Oduya needing to move on due to salary cap constraints. But the way he’s moving on seems like an extra kick in the gut. If Dallas GM Jim Nill was having some type of discussions with Oduya and his agent prior to moving Trevor Daley to Chicago, that should raise a gigantic red flag to the Blackhawks brass. The Stars shipped away a 31-year-old defenseman who had just completed the best offensive season of his career for a 34-year-old defenseman with little offensive upside. And they’re paying just $450,000 more per year over the next two seasons in the process.
Da Windy City
Sure, Nill needs to shore up his defense, and Oduya would be better for that than Daley from a purely defensive standpoint. And maybe Nill was blinded by the two Cups on Oduya’s resume. But when the trade ledger essentially reads Sharp, Oduya and Johns for Daley and Ryan Garbutt, you’ve lost. Badly.
This entire episode also indicates the market for Sharp was just a disaster. Whether that’s because Bowman’s opening price for Sharp was something out of a fairy tale or because no team wanted to be the one that helped a franchise that had just won three Cups in six seasons — or because all these teams (minus Dallas) really saw no upside in adding Sharp at his large cap hit — getting him off the books proved extremely difficult. Moving Bryan Bickell and/or Kris Versteeg this offseason, then, should be nothing short of impossible. And someone needs to move, because Marcus Kruger remains unsigned.
But for now, we say goodbye to Oduya, who joined the Blackhawks late in the 2011-12 season and became a key cog in a championship machine. He frequently paired with fellow Swede Niklas Hjalmarsson, typically providing fine stay-at-home defense and occasionally chipping in on offense. He played 219 regular-season 65 playoff games for Chicago, never falling below an average of 20 minutes on ice at any point. His best offensive regular season with the Blackhawks was a 16-point 2013-14 campaign in which he netted 13 assists.
The Blackhawks will now officially move on with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Daley, Trevor van Riemsdyk, David Rundblad and anyone else in the system on defense, as another summer in salary cap hell continues.
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