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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Almost from the moment the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, they were up against the salary-cap wall.
They were forced to jettison key pieces of their team literally days after defeating Philadelphia and spent all this past season with little cap room with which to maneuver.
GM Stan Bowman appears determined to chart a much different course this upcoming season. He traded forward Troy Brouwer, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, to the Washington Capitals for a first-round pick (26th overall) in Friday night's first round of the NHL draft. Then, the GM sent high-priced defenseman Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers for forward Rostislav Olesz. A source told ESPN.com that Campbell had agreed to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate the deal.
|Brian Campbell still has five years remaining on his deal with a $7.142 million annual cap hit.|
That move makes sense on a number of levels. Florida GM Dale Tallon was the man who signed Campbell to the whopper eight-year deal worth slightly more than $57 million when Tallon was GM in Chicago. Campbell still has five years remaining with an annual cap hit of $7.142 million. Olesz still has three years remaining on a contract with a $3.125 million annual cap hit, so the net gain against the cap is significant for Bowman.
"It gives us the option to do different things, whether it's through the trade market or through free agency, and I think certainly it's going to be a departure from the last year when we really were kind of [in a] stranglehold all year in terms of being able to do things," Bowman said after the first round was completed. "It's not the worst thing in the world to go into the season with some cap room, as well.
"There are always opportunities throughout the year if you've got some space in your cap," he added. "We didn't have that luxury last year. It'll give a lot of options for us. Once we sort it out, we can figure out how we're going to allocate the money better."
In giving up Brouwer, Bowman said it would create space for some of the team's promising young forwards, such as Kyle Beach and Jeremy Morin.
"We're fortunate in our situation. We've got a lot of young players we need to find spots for," Bowman said. "The time comes sometimes where you've got to make room for players, whether it's Beach or Morin or a lot of other guys in our system that play kind of a similar game as Troy."
Brouwer scored 22 goals during the Hawks' Cup-winning season and was the subject of much interest from a variety of teams, Bowman said.
"He's a player obviously a lot of teams were interested in. We certainly wish him well. He's been a great Blackhawk," Bowman said.
That Brouwer didn't fit the Hawks' long-term plans might be a boon for the Washington Capitals.
Blessed with terrific talent, the Capitals have struggled to get over the playoff hump and were swept in the second round by Tampa Bay this spring. In 2010, they won the Presidents' Trophy and were stunned by Montreal in the first round.
Brouwer's postseason experience should help.
"We like that he's a power forward that plays hard and has played a lot of playoff games and has won a Cup," Washington GM George McPhee told ESPN.com on Friday night. "He's capable of getting 20 goals and can play up and down the lineup, on either left wing or right wing, and seems to be a terrific person and a real good leader."
• Paying tribute: There was a terrific tribute to the late director of NHL's Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire, who died of cancer this spring.
McGuire, whose passion was scouting and the NHL draft, was honored with a video montage before his widow, Terry, and the couple's daughters, Jacqueline and Erin, were introduced and announced the Edmonton Oilers as having the first pick in the 2011 draft.
Likewise, kudos to the New York Rangers, who honored Derek Boogaard by inviting his brother, Aaron, on stage for the team's first selection in the draft. The emotional moment prompted all on the draft floor, and most of those in attendance, to a standing ovation.
Boogaard, who died earlier this spring from an accidental mix of alcohol and oxycodone, was a former Minnesota Wild enforcer who was wildly popular in the community.
• Hometown introduction: A nice touch by the New York Islanders to have Kyle Okposo up on stage when they made their first selection in the draft. Okposo was born in St. Paul and attended the University of Minnesota for two years. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft.
• Not-so-warm welcome: Good for the local fans to remember the unceremonious departure of the first Minnesota NHL franchise, the North Stars, back in 1993. They booed Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk as he made the Dallas Stars' first pick of the draft.
• Sweden stars: Although there has been some concern in Sweden over the state of the nation's hockey development program in the past few years, there obviously remains high-end talent there. Four Swedish-born players were among the first 10 selections Friday, a first in draft history.
Left winger Gabriel Landeskog, a junior player from Kitchener of the OHL, was taken second overall by Colorado; defenseman Adam Larsson was selected by New Jersey with the fourth pick; center Mika Zibanejad was taken by the Ottawa Senators with the sixth pick (that ought to make captain Daniel Alfredsson happy); and defenseman Jonas Brodin went 10th to the local Minnesota Wild. In all, there were six Swedes taken in the first round, tying a draft record.
• And finally: No goaltenders were taken in the first round for the third time in the past five drafts.