With the Chicago Blackhawks acquiring Johnny Oduya on Tuesday, they addressed a key need for this season’s team
We should have known Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman wasn’t standing pat at this year’s trade deadline.
The crafty Bowman said as much a month or so ago, but he was simply shading his activities. After acquiring forward Tomas Jurco from the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, the Blackhawks added defenseman Johnny Oduya from the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.
You might remember Oduya as the seemingly perfect defensive partner for Niklas Hjalmarsson and a key member of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2013 and 2015.
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Of course, this isn’t 2013 or 2015. But Oduya has been called upon by Bowman to fortify a Chicago defense that has had its issues throughout this season.
Let’s break down some of the good and bad behind this deal and see how the Blackhawks came out of it.
Pros of the deal
In case you missed it, the Blackhawks acquired Oduya from the Stars for forward Mark McNeill and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018. Here’s more specifics, courtesy TSN’s Bob McKenzie:
Dallas has also agreed to retain 50 percent of Oduya’s salary, leaving him at a cap hit of $1.875 million.
So on the positive side, the Blackhawks got McNeill to a fresh start somewhere else. It was pretty clear he wasn’t viewed as a viable NHL player by the Blackhawks, so they shipped him away and got a viable NHL piece in return.
The draft pick is a small throw in, even if it does become a third-rounder. Bowman held on to his first- and second-round picks this year and his first-rounder in 2018, which you know he was keen on doing — whether for actual use or for later dealings.
Consider this when thinking about the price paid here by the Blackhawks:
Chicago Tribune’s Chris Hine makes a really good point here. Kimmo Timonen did essentially nothing for Chicago and cost the Blackhawks big time in the draft picks department.
Oduya would likely be able to do quite a bit more for the Blackhawks and cost them two assets they could afford to part with.
Also on the plus side, Oduya and former playing partner Hjalmarsson could conceivably get back together (when the latter is healthy) and allow Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to play together once more. Makes for a potentially more intimidating top four than what the Blackhawks had going.
Cons of the deal
Of course, very few pro sports trades are tilted entirely to one side. The Blackhawks didn’t come out of this deal with the perfect piece.
Oduya is now 35 going on 36 years old. He’s dealt with ankle problems this season and has played just once since Jan. 17. He’s seen just 37 games of action this season and has had some trouble possessing the puck — although he’s seen 38 percent of his starts in the offensive zone.
The biggest concern with this deal, for me, is injury potential. If the Blackhawks are going to do anything else prior to the trade deadline, it’ll likely be to boost the forward corps, not the defense. Oduya is the reinforcements for the blueliners.
So if he gets hurt again or struggles to play in a system he formerly thrived in, the Blackhawks are going to have to rely more heavily on the likes of Brian Campbell, Michal Kempny, Trevor van Riemsdyk and maybe even Michal Rozsival — which is exactly what this trade is meant to prevent.
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Conclusion, and what the future holds
Overall, I think the positives outweigh the negatives in the Blackhawks acquiring Oduya. That’s on paper, of course, but adding a guy who won two Cups with you in the past and who knows the defensive system has to be seen as a positive.
Oduya, despite his injury troubles this season, is a guy who can still eat minutes. He’s averaging 18:10 of ice time per night in 2016-17.
Now, there’s more on the back end of this deal to consider. The Blackhawks put Hjalmarsson on injured reserve shortly after the trade came through. Coach Joel Quenneville said today that Hjammer would not play all week, still recovering from an injury.
So what putting Hjammer on IR does is free up even more space for another addition at the trade deadline. CapFriendly projects the Blackhawks’ current salary cap space at $1,156,176. While that’s not a lot, we’ve seen Bowman makes things happen with limited wiggling room.
Of interest to me was news earlier today that Ville Pokka, along with McNeill, was being shopped prior to the deadline. You know who needs defensive prospects? The Detroit Red Wings. You know who has some forwards who the Blackhawks have been linked to in deadline conversations? The Detroit Red Wings.
I’m not willing to imply some other move is guaranteed to happen with Hjalmarsson on IR, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility either. As such, we can only focus right now on Oduya coming to Chicago, and that move seems to be a low-risk, prudent addition.