The offseason between winning a Stanley Cup and defending it is usually a bittersweet time. While the celebration is ongoing, changes are almost inevitable. Players with Stanley Cup rings are a commodity around the NHL, and oftentimes the opposition is willing to pay to hack and slash away at your winning roster.
No team in recent memory is more aware of this than the Chicago Blackhawks.
When they won the Cup four years ago, they were forced to make all kinds of tough roster choices. The salary cap forced them to trade Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel to the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets). Colin Fraser was also dealt out of town, as was Kris Versteeg. Andrew Ladd was also flipped to Atlanta.
Aware that the 'Hawks were up against the cap and running out of options to retain Antti Niemi, the San Jose Sharks aggressively extended an offer sheet to restricted free agent Niklas Hjalmarsson. Chicago matched and were forced to release Niemi as a result.
In a no-coincidence move, San Jose then pursued and signed the Cup-winning goalie.
Compared to that tough offseason, 2013 has been a cake walk and Chicago is in much better shape as defending champions than they were the last go around.