NOTE: Shortly after posting my thoughts on the trade with Chicago, news started hitting about the reported coaching hires of Craig Ramsay and John Torchetti. Thus, there are some updates found below the original post.
Rick Dudley made a deal with his previous employer to pull off his first trade as the Thrashers general manager. Heading to the Chicago Blackhawks will be centerman Marty Reasoner, prospect Jeremy Morin as well as the 24th and 54th picks in this weekend’s entry draft. Those picks were acquired last February as part of the deal that sent Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey.
Coming this way are forwards Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Eager as well as defenseman Brent Sopel. The Thrashers will also get prospect Akim Aliu, the 56th overall draft pick by the Hawks in 2007. He currently plays for the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.
Byfuglien played in all 82 games last season for Chicago scoring 17 goals, 17 assists and was a –7. In five NHL seasons he has 55 goals and 54 assists during 260 games and is a –15. During last spring’s playoffs he tallied 5 goals and 16 assists during the Blackhawks’ successful Stanley Cup run. He was originally a defenseman but was moved to right wing at the beginning of the 2007-08 season to give the Blackhawks a bigger body in front of the net.
Byfuglien is a native of Minnesota and was the 245th overall pick by Chicago in 2003. His stepfather, Dale Smedsmo, played four games at the NHL level with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ben Eager was a first round pick by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2002…23rd overall…and has spent the last three seasons in Chicago. Last season he netted 16 overall points primarily playing on the fourth line. In 255 career starts, he’s amassed 621 penalty minutes. During the playoffs he was a +2 and had a goal, two helpers along with 20 PIM.
Sopel is a veteran defenseman who was a 6th round draft pick in 1995 by Vancouver. He spent 5+ seasons with the Canucks. He’s also spent some time with the Kings and Islanders but the last 3-1/2 seasons have been with the Blackhawks. He is a career +26 in 588 NHL games and has scored 42 goals and 169 assists.
One other quick thing here regarding Aliu…back in 2005, the native of Nigeria was involved in an on-ice altercation with Steve Downie while the two were playing with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. During practice, Downie blindsided Aliu with hit to the mouth… knocking out three of his teeth. From what I understand, the incident came about after Aliu refused to take part in a team hazing event in which rookies were forced to stand naked in a bus bathroom. Downie was suspended for five games and instructed to undergo professional counseling while Aliu was suspended for one game.
As far as dollar and cents go…Byfuglien will be in the last year of a contract that pays $3 million and will be an RFA after the season. Sopel will be paid $2 million and is slated to be a UFA next summer. Eager is an RFA as of July 1 and is coming off a contract worth a little less than a million dollars.
What do you think of the trade?
Total Voters: 188
As for my initial thoughts on the exchange, well…I gotta say I like it. Basically, you have a swap of prospects, albeit a promising one with Morin. Then what you have is the Thrashers parting ways with a very good third/fourth line center and a pair of picks for three NHL caliber players…obviously, the big name there being Byfuglien.
With the addition of Eager, I also have to wonder if a player like Eric Bolton or Evgeny Artyukhin could now be expendable. Bolts and Arty will both be a UFAs next week.
Could the addition of Sopel play into the Pavel Kubina contract talks? Should the Thrashers find themselves unable to resign that veteran blueliner, they now have Sopel to fill the void. Of course, if the team retains Kubina’s services then you have a defensive corps that includes those two plus Ron Hainsey, Toby Enstrom, Zach Bogosian and Johnny Oduya. Toss in and Arturs Kulda and…hmmmmm… that’s a pretty decent group.
Also, what might any of this mean to someone like Maxim Afinogenov…could this possibly influence his decision to re-sign here? That is, I mean, if Dudley increases the term of any such deal to anything greater than one year. Or is it more likely that Buff has been brought in to replace Max?
Of course, that would also make one Boris Valabik expendable.
Regardless of how all that plays out I really do like this trade. Sure, I hate to part ways with a player like Reasoner who works his butt off on the defensive end of the ice, but the returns are good…so I give this deal a big thumbs up.
UPDATE June 23 11:00 pm – TSN.ca is reporting that Craig Ramsay is the new head coach for the Thrashers.
UPDATE June 23, 11:50 pm – TSN.ca now reports that John Torchetti will be named assistant coach for Thrashers.
UPDATE June 24 12:55 am – There seems to be another trade in the works that is needed to finalize the one with the Blackhawks. This would send Brett Sterling and Mike Vernace to some place called Sand Jose, as C-Viv tweets.