Every Blackhawk fan was hoping this time would never come, but it had to eventually. After winning the Stanley Cup, due to very small cap room, the Hawks GMs would have to make some tough trades. Gone is Dustin "Big Buff" Byfuglien and now, as of Wednesday, Kris Versteeg.
Buff was dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers along with forward Ben Eager. Buff's trade wasn't totally shocking. After a stellar postseason, Buff's trade stock was at an all-time high, and trading him opened up some cap room. Buff is gone and will definitely be missed, but it was almost a sure thing that he would be going.
Versteeg, on the other hand, was a toss-up. He has now gone to Toronto along with prospect Bill Sweatt for fortwards Viktor Stalberg, Phillipe Paradis, and Christopher DiDiomencio.
Stan Bowman, Blackhawks' GM, said he wanted to restock the team with young talent. He gave special mention to Stalberg, stating the young man was NHL-ready and that he would fit in nicely with the stars.
It's tough to see skaters go, both had great playoffs, and it's even worse when it comes as a surprise. Winning a Stanley Cup and then watching the team become dismantled is tough for me sit and watch happen. Knowing some skaters would have to go doesn't help ease the pain of watching someone like Versteeg go.
Versteeg, definitely a great, young talent, brought youth and vigor to the ice every game. His level of play wasn't quite up there with Kane, but he was heading in that direction. His flashy goals and quick puck movement made for some great highlight reels.
It doesn't end there for the Hawks. Andrew Ladd, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Antti Niemi will become available Thursday as restricted free agents, and could possibly be picked up by other teams.
*UPDATE: Andrew Ladd has been traded to Atlanta for a 2nd round pick and Vishnevskiy
As well as announcing the trade, Bowman mentioned he'd be able to sign all three.
“[Offer sheets] don’t concern me,” Bowman repeated. “These guys are going to remain with the Blackhawks. We have plenty of flexibility to make things work.”
I don't know how much truth is in that statement, or if he just said that to settle down the anguish of the possibility of fan favorite, Niemi, leaving for another team, a move that would defiantly cause an uproar.
The offseason has only just begun, but it has already been a bloodbath for the Hawks. They're trying to limit the damage, hoping to set up a dynasty for years to come.
One thing is certain: they have to do it this way. As long as Bowman makes the best moves with the cards he's dealt, the Hawks can still be contenders next years to come.