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« 2010 NBA Draft: In Search of a Sure Thing The Great Free Agent Arms Race: Chicago v. Miami »

Blackhawks Thu Jun 24 2010

Selloff Starts

First things first, congratulations to Duncan Keith, the Norris Trophy winner for best defenseman at last night's NHL Awards. Keith's honor was well-deserved and a chance to show off those new pearly whites.

Now, the big news yesterday was the trade that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager, along with minor league prospect Akim Aliu, to the Atlanta Thrashers for the 24th and 54th picks in the draft, center Marty Reasoner, forward Joey Crabb and prospect Jeremy Morin. The Blackhawks followed that up by shipping Colin Fraser to the Edmonton Oilers for a 6th round pick in this weekend's draft.

The moves may had been a surprise to some, especially given the crucial goals Byfuglien scored and the multiple shots blocked by Sopel in the run to the Cup, but the Hawks find themselves in a perilous salary cap position due to previous overpaid contracts and new extensions for Jonathon Toews, Patrick Kane, and Keith. Add in arbitration with goaltender Antti Niemi, and a slew of restricted free agents, and the Hawks find themselves needing to shed salary, fast. Byfuglien's $3 million and Sopel's $2.3 million cap hits were obvious targets, and the first of possibly more moves to come.

Looking at the trade itself first, while all three played vital roles, all were role players at best. Byfuglien showed up big-time during the playoffs, but was a frustrating non-factor in many regular season games. He had a similar strong performance last postseason, but the play didn't carry over enough to warrant that kind of money. Byfuglien has the raw talent to put it all together, but the Hawks can't afford to wait for that to happen (though it's great he's in the Eastern Conference). Sopel's heart is second-to-none, but his lack of speed was a liability, and while Eager brought energy, his concussion issues were a major risk.

While Marty Reasoner's no prize, he at least offers a cheaper alternative to veteran unrestricted free-agent John Madden, but don't expect to see him be a major factor. The true prize is the two high-round picks, allowing the Blackhawks to restock the talent level at the minor league level and allow for some lower-cost solutions to fill the roster in upcoming years. Morin is a well-regarded prospect, but it's hard to say how important he'll be in the long run until the Hawks see him work in their system.

After winning the Cup, the Hawks had just 14 players (including Byfuglien and Sopel) signed for this season at a total of $57.6 million; the salary cap for 2010-11 is $59.4 million. Eager and Fraser were both restricted free agents and didn't count toward the tally, but would have had to have been resigned. The trade helped the Hawks free up almost $5 million in cap space, with the only salary coming back being Reasoner's $1.15 million (the other two players are no guarantee to make the roster yet). Though it gives the Blackhawks a small bit of breathing room, the roster still only has 13 players signed and only $6 million left to fill the 10 remaining spots, meaning more deals are to come.

 
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Cam / June 24, 2010 9:29 PM

Don't undersell Morin. He's highly regarded and would've been a 1st rounder last year if not for skating issues. Skating issues also kept Dave Bolland out of the 1st round, and he's become a very good player.

Morin's a sniper who has scored everywhere he's played. He has a lethal shot and according to Bowman, great hands.

jeremy / June 25, 2010 11:31 AM

Wasn't my intention to undersell Morin, purely to state I don't know a thing about him other than his stat line (which is very promising).

Seems like the kind of guy the Hawks love, so I've got hope he'll be a steal.

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