And the dismantling of the Stanley Cup champions has begun.
The Blackhawks, facing salary cap strife, send playoff hero forward Dustin Byfuglien (above), forward Ben Eager (right), defenseman Brent Sopel and forward prospect Akim Aliu to the Thrashers in exchange for forward Marty Reasoner, forward prospects Joey Crabb and Jeremy Morin as well as a first-round pick (No. 24 overall) and a second-round pick (No. 54).
In order to get within the NHL limits of players under contract, the Thrashers had to complete a minor deal with the Sharks which sent minor league defenseman Michael Vernace and left wing Brett Sterling as well as a seventh-round pick to San Jose in exchange for future considerations.
Oh yeah, and Atlanta also is on the verge of hiring a coach. Craig Ramsay, who had spent the past three seasons as an assistant with the Bruins was named the Thrashers' new head coach. He had previous served as the head coach of the Sabres (1986-87) and Flyers (2000-01).
EN Says: For Atlanta, the trade was a good hockey move. For Chicago, it was a necessary business move.
Combined with the February trade of Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils which netted forward Niclas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya and forward Patrice Cormier, the Thrashers have added quite a bit of depth to their organization. This was a team which tried to win with Ilya Kovalchuk and friends for nearly a decade. All that approach ever gained as a first-round sweep in 2007. Now, the Blackhawks have the making of a deep team.
Byfuglien showed what he was capable of when he's used in a power forward role and was dominant at time in the postseason for Chicago. That said, we're curious to see what he can do without the services of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on his line. Things will be a little more difficult with Rich Peverly as your center.
Sopel and Eager (right) are nice role players who were significant contributors to Chicago's Cup run. But they won't make or break your team. But they do provide NHL depth to an organization which as short on it.
The Blackhawks simply had to make this move. It's not a good hockey move, but it was simply a matter of reality for them. They were in a jam with regards to the salary cap and shed approximately $4.18 million in terms of a salary cap hit.
With unrestricted free agent defensive center John Madden likely not re-sign, Reasoner can assume his duties.
We're not terribly thrilled with the selection of Ramsay as head coach. He's a re-tread. He's been a quality assistant for many years in the league, but he's never really accomplished much as a head coach. That said, it would be a stretch to say he's ever gotten much of a chance as a head coach. The Thrashers could've done far worse than Ramsay, but they could have also done a lot better.
(Photos: Byfuglien-Al Bello/Getty Images; Eager-Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)