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Atlanta or Chicago: Who Benefits Most in Dustin Byfuglien Trade?

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 09:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates after teammate Patrick Kane #88 scored the game-winning goal in overtime to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 and win the Stanley Cup in Game Six of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Wachovia Center on June 9, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Warren ShawCorrespondent IIJune 24, 2010

Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Tab Bamford wrote this opinion a little over 48 hours ago:

“After an incredible postseason in which he led the entire NHL with five game-winning goals, Dustin Byfuglien is riding high in the eyes of Hawks fans...and general managers all over the league. Because of this, now is the time for the Hawks to trade Dustin Byfuglien.”

Bam and Zounds.

I was impressed with the accuracy and professional quality of the article and thought Mr. Bamford was right on.

Little did I know that the Blackhawks would read it also and get busy so quickly.

It is far too early to tell which team will ultimately benefit from this “blockbuster trade.”

At first glance, if you are an Atlanta Thrashers fan, you may be experiencing a temporary feeling of exuberance and maybe even some euphoria.

After all, Dustin Byfuglien just helped his former team win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961.

His postseason performance was remarkable to say the least. Some Chicago fans may be fuming right now, criticizing General Manager Stan Bowman for making such a deal.

In addition, the Thrashers received defenseman Brent Sopel and 21-year-old NHL Prospect Akim Aliu and Ben Eager.

Sopel has made rounds to several NHL cities. and Akim Aliu has been unable to crack the Chicago lineup. Aliu has also had a few unpleasant encounters with players and team management in the junior ranks prior to being drafted by the Blackhawks.

After a playoff run like Byfuglien just experienced, Chicago fans may have been expecting a regular season performance mirroring his playoff productivity.

Chances are that he would not have delivered such a performance. The close checking adrenalin-producing quality of the Stanley Cup playoffs does not often translate to similar performances during the long 82-game regular season.

Let’s look at what Chicago received in the deal: a first and second-round draft choice, forward Marty Reasoner, and prospect Jeremy Morin.

The salary cap has altered a lot of hard and fast rules for successful NHL franchises and those fighting for survival like the Thrashers.

Prior to the salary cap, it was a death sentence for any team to trade away first round draft choices at any price.

Teams like the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Islanders, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Detroit Red Wings used draft choices to build their teams into solid playoff contenders and in some cases dynasties.

The only hard and fast rule these days is”there is no hard and fast rule.” The Thrashers needed immediate help, and the Blackhawks needed to jettison some payroll to address salary-cap issues.

At first glance, both teams appear to have benefited. However, all it will take to change that perception amongst hockey watchers is for Byfuglien to have a outstanding goal scoring season for the Thrashers or for the two draft choices Chicago received to turn into superstars, further benefiting the Blackhawks dynasty ambitions.

New Thrasher General Manager Rick Dudley seems to know how to make a splash and is generating needed anticipation and excitement.

Conversely, Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman seems to know how to be a “chip off that ole block,” mimicking his Hall of Fame father Scotty Bowman's playbook to a tee.

Both teams should be exciting to watch as the new season approaches.

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