Several weeks ago, Stan Bowman insisted that Chicago Blackhawks were going to be quiet at this year’s trade deadline. Well, less than 24 hours before Wednesday’s deadline, Bowman made another move that indicated that the Blackhawks are once again serious Stanley Cup contenders.
On Tuesday, the Blackhawks defense got a lot deeper. The Blackhawks reacquired Johnny Oduya from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Mark McNeil and a conditional fourth-round 2018 draft pick. The most crucial part of this deal, besides the fact it makes the Blackhawks blue line one of the deepest in all of the NHL, is that the Stars will retain 50 percent of Oduya’s salary. Yes, that does mean Stan Bowman may have a few more deals to make before tomorrow’s deadline.
Oduya signed a two-year deal with the Stars in the summer of 2015 and is currently in the final year of his contract. This was the perfect move for the Blackhawks. Oduya helped the organization win Stanley Cup Championships in 2013 and 2015. His absence last season was obvious in the team’s first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks back-end really struggled throughout the series and it ultimately cost them the series, which went seven games.
The Blackhawks defense this season has been much better, but this move adds a little more depth, which is always nice to have to go into the postseason. The Blackhawks defense will probably now have Duncan Keith paired with Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson with Johnny Oduya and Trevor Van Riemsdyk with Brian Campbell. The Blackhawks also have Michal Rozsival and Michal Kempny who can play some crucial minutes down the stretch.
This move also comes at very good time. Niklas Hjalmarsson will miss a few more games with an upper body injury. The Blackhawks put Hjalmarsson on injured reserve on Tuesday night, in hope that he could return when the Blackhawks come off their four-day break.
The early reaction to the Blackhawks and Stars trade is that Oduya was traded for next to nothing. McNeil never reached his full potential. He was a first-round draft pick in 2011 and played in just one game during his tenure in the organization.
Oduya, 35, is returning from an ankle injury that was re-aggravated. The injury did keep him out for almost two months. This season, Oduya has one goal and six assists in just 37 games.
According to Bob McKenzie, the conditional fourth-round pick will become a third-round pick to the Stars if the Blackhawks win the first two rounds in the playoffs and Oduya plays in 50% or more of the games. That is not a very big price to pay considering the fact that the Blackhawks would be in the conference finals (four games away from the Stanley Cup Final) if they were to win those first two rounds.
Depth at the blue line is something the Blackhawks have never had during their current run of success. In 2010, 2013 and 2015 they relied heavily on players like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Things will be different going into this year’s playoffs.