Category archive: Chicago Blackhawks

And on the third day, Jonathan Toews tried to catch his breath.

The Chicago Blackhawks captain was almost at a loss for words as he described an emotional 48 hours in his native Winnipeg, where the Conn Smythe Trophy winner was feted Monday and Tuesday like few others before him in the city.

"It was unreal," Toews told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

A key to the city from the mayor; a lake named after him; thousands of fans showing up for his Stanley Cup parade; his charity golf tournament raising more money than he would have ever guessed; and, finally, his childhood hockey arena being renamed in his honor.

"That's something I never expected," said Toews. "That was really awesome and obviously a huge honor."

His charity golf tournament Monday raised more than $100,000 for the local children's rehab center, which helps kids with disabilities. That meant a lot to him. After visiting the center, he went to the local children's hospital with the Stanley Cup and had to fight back the lump in his throat.

"You don't do that every day and it was pretty shocking to see some of these kids and how sick they are and how much it meant to them that we went," Toews said. "They see the Cup and their eyes light up pretty good. Some of them are pretty tired and sick in bed, but they muster as much energy as they can to take a picture. It was really cool."

On Sunday, thousands lined up the streets for his Cup parade.

"That was amazing. I didn't think it was going to turn out that well," said Toews. "People just kept showing up. Some were there from 8 a.m. waiting."

The two magical days in his hometown were the final chapter to a 2009-10 season that featured an Olympic gold medal, being named top forward at the Vancouver Games, a Stanley Cup and NHL playoff MVP honors. "This was the cap to everything,'' he said.

Now comes reality: going back to a Chicago Blackhawks team missing several faces from the Cup-champion squad. And more moves may come after the team matched Niklas Hjalmarsson's offer sheet Monday.

"I spoke to Andrew Ladd yesterday for the first time since he was traded," Toews said. "I wanted to give him and all the boys [who were traded] some space. Obviously, they're dealing with a lot right now. But I guess, at the same time, we'll be looking to getting together as a team at the end of the month at the [July 30-Aug. 1 Blackhawks] convention in Chicago. We'll be missing some good friends and good teammates, but we knew that was going to happen. We're dealing with it the best we can."

LAS VEGAS -- Kudos to Stan Bowman.

Three NHL executives I spoke to Tuesday said they didn't think the Chicago Blackhawks GM could fetch a first-round pick for Dustin Byfuglien, but he did just that Wednesday in a blockbuster deal with the Atlanta Thrashers that spelled major cap relief for the Stanley Cup champions.

OK, so the first-round pick is 24th overall -- New Jersey's pick from the Ilya Kovalchuk trade -- but it's a first-round selection nonetheless.

Under immense pressure to make a move to ease their salary-cap crunch, the Blackhawks moved Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and prospect Akum Aliu to the Thrashers for a first-round pick, a second-round pick (also New Jersey's), prospect Jeremy Morin and veteran forward Marty Reasoner. The trade is still pending league approval.

The Hawks won't be as good a team without Byfuglien, a playoff goal-scoring machine; but it was understood months ago that Chicago would come out of its cap crisis as a thinner squad. Thing is, the Hawks here have been able to recoup some value in future assets, and that's huge.

The cap savings from the deal is just over $5 million since Reasoner ($1.15 million) is the only NHL salary the Hawks take in return. If you assume goalie Cristobal Huet ($5.625 million) will either play in Europe next season or get buried in the minors, then the Hawks have found about $10.5 million in cap savings right there.

On the Atlanta side of things, what's not to like? A first-round pick is a big price to pay, but the Thrashers retained their own pick (eighth overall). Byfuglien, meanwhile, is a top-six power forward with star potential. He has frustrated the Hawks' coaching staff with his work effort over the past few seasons, but showed what he is capable of this spring.

And, by the way, the Kovalchuk trade is the gift that keeps on giving. The Thrashers initially got forward Niclas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya and prospect Patrice Cormier in return back in February and used the picks they also received from New Jersey to add Byfuglien, Eager, Sopel and Aliu. Not bad for an asset in Kovalchuk that was walking away July 1.

Don Waddell has taken a lot of abuse from fans in Atlanta, but keep in mind the former GM (and current team president) made that deal with the Devils and it's looking like a great one. New GM Rick Dudley added the finishing touches Wednesday by scooping up Byfuglien against heavy competition. Of course, Dudley had the inside track given his relationship with Bowman during their days in Chicago together.

OK, everyone ... take a deep breath now. More moves to come over the next few days!

The Chicago Blackhawks made their much-anticipated move for a blueliner before Friday's 3 p.m. ET Olympic trade freeze, but nobody was busier than Bryan Murray.

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Bryan Murray
Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images Bryan Murray had a big day Friday, earning a contract extension and making personnel moves.

The veteran Ottawa Senators GM got more job security, made a trade, revealed he made a contract offer to his most important pending free agent, and put another player on waivers.

Murray was rewarded for a surprising season by his Northeast Division-leading Senators with a one-year contract extension and then promptly improved his playoff-bound club with the acquisition of veteran center Matt Cullen from the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I've known Matt since my Anaheim days, and I really felt that he would fit into the room and the chemistry of our team," Murray told ESPN.com. "If he plays with the right people, he should be real productive for us."

The 33-year-old Cullen, who is slated to be an unrestricted free agent July 1, has 40 points (12-28) in 60 games and is actually on pace to eclipse his career high of 49 points. So this might be a sneaky pickup by the red-hot Sens, who have usurped the slumping Buffalo atop the Northeast Division.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, believe they made a move Friday that helps them this year in their Stanley Cup bid and next year with their salary cap issues. They acquired veteran blueliner Kim Johnsson from the Minnesota Wild as well as prospect Nick Leddy in exchange for defenseman Cam Barker.

Johnsson, 33, will be an unrestricted free agent July 1 and has a $4.85 million salary-cap hit this season. Barker has two more years left on his deal after this season at a $3.08-million cap hit. The Blackhawks need to shed some serious payroll in the offseason to accommodate new contract extensions that kick in next season for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. So with Johnsson off the books July 1, they'll save a bit of money there. It's a start. But they'll need to shave off more payroll this summer, around $7 million.

That's what the Hurricanes were doing Friday, shedding more payroll. Cullen, earning $2.8 million this season, is UFA July 1, which put him on Jim Rutherford's hit list. The Hurricanes GM moved Niclas Wallin to San Jose on Sunday and is not done dumping UFAs from his rebuilding squad. Rutherford did a nice job Friday getting a second-round pick in 2010 in exchange for Cullen plus blueliner Alexandre Picard.

Once Dominic Moore went to Montreal on Thursday night for a second-rounder (albeit in 2011), that certainly helped set the market for what Rutherford could get for Cullen, who is also a veteran center and potential UFA.

For Ottawa, the one fly in the ointment in a terrific season to this point has been a 27th-ranked power play. Cullen can help, and even play on the point. Murray figured head coach Cory Clouston wouldn't waste any time using his new toy on the power play.

"We're at the point where our power play hasn't been something that we're really excited about every night and he brings something there," Murray said. "Because of his quickness and intelligence and the fact he sees the ice well, I think Cory will surely try him out there at the point."

Ottawa may not be done ahead of the March 3 NHL trade deadline.

"We're now going to have to look around and talk about a defenseman," Murray said.

The Senators also put Jonathan Cheechoo on waivers Friday. The disappointing winger has another year on his deal at $3.5 million for next season, so I'd be shocked if anyone claimed him. Murray told ESPN.com that Cheechoo would go to AHL Binghamton if he cleared waivers.

And finally, Murray announced he had extended a contract offer to key defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who is slated for unrestricted free agency July 1. Volchenkov's agent Jay Grossman confirmed to ESPN.com that he had received the offer from the Senators and "will be reviewing with Anton soon," he wrote in an e-mail.

Elsewhere, the New York Rangers acquired tough guy Jody Shelley from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a conditional draft pick. The Rangers had waived tough guy Donald Brashear the previous day.

Also put on waivers Friday was winger Jamie Lundmark by the Calgary Flames and rugged, veteran winger Brad May by the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings eventually need to clear cap space in order to be able to activate defenseman Andreas Lilja and fit his $1.25 million salary under the salary cap, although at this point doctors still haven't cleared Lilja, GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com.

"We're also not sure what's going to happen with Kirk Maltby," Holland added. "He's played through a chronic shoulder injury all season long, and doctors say he'll need surgery if he wants to play next season. But the question is, does he have surgery now or after the season? We are still determining that."

Bottom line, there are possibly more roster moves coming from Detroit depending on what happens with Maltby and Lilja.

The Florida Panthers were working the phones Friday, a day after shipping out Moore. More players may likely move before the March 3 trade deadline, likely including UFAs-to-be Jordan Leopold and Dennis Seidenberg, both blueliners. Forward Rostislav Olesz is also available, although he has four more years on his deal with a $3.125 million cap hit.

Alexei Ponikarovsky remained a Toronto Maple Leaf on Friday, although a Leafs front-office source told ESPN.com that "interest was building" for the winger, a UFA July 1. But it will wait until March 1 at the earliest. He is earning $2.5 million this season, although his salary cap hit is $2.1 million. The 29-year-old Ukrainian had 41 points (19-22) and a plus-5 rating in 60 games with the Leafs this season.

Ray Whitney did not move Friday and that's not that surprising. Rutherford told ESPN.com Friday morning that he was pretty sure the 37-year-old winger, UFA July 1, would be a post-Olympic move. My sense is that will allow more teams that are tight against the salary cap to get into the action, which brings to mind the Pittsburgh Penguins. Whitney, as previously reported, nixed a trade to Los Angeles two weeks ago when he tried to coax a three-year contract extension out of the Kings. He could do that because any move needs his consent via his no-trade clause.

Whitney has 45 points (17-28) and a minus-1 rating in 58 games with the Hurricanes this season, and is a valuable and versatile player who can play the point on the power play. He's earning $3.55 million this season. He's actually a player the Senators had on their radar before moving on to Cullen.

"I did inquire about Ray, but at the end of the day, being a center and the versatility with Cullen certainly fits with us right now," Murray said.

Another player who did not move Friday was Marty Turco. Again, not very surprising. A Stars front-office source told ESPN.com that the team was getting "no traction" on the trade market. That's because of his $5.4 million salary. The veteran goalie will be UFA July 1, and he showed again Thursday night in Calgary that he remains an elite No. 1 goalie. It also showed he's letting neither the Kari Lehtonen acquisition nor the trade rumors affect him.

"I'm coping just fine," Turco told ESPN.com on Friday. "I want to win. Period. So we'll just see what happens."

We'll also see how the Philadelphia Flyers feel about Ray Emery's rested hip in two weeks' time and whether they believe they can make a playoff push with Michael Leighton as their possible starter.

Another goalie named Marty stayed put as well. Martin Biron has been looking for a move ever since Rick DiPietro returned to give the Islanders a crowded crease. Biron, UFA July 1 and earning $1.4 million this season, recently went on a conditioning stint in the AHL as he awaited a possible trade. But it'll have to wait until March 1 at the earliest.

"I have been feeling good after playing a couple of games in Bridgeport," Biron told ESPN.com. "Got back into action against Nashville [a 4-3 win Tuesday night], and that was good. So I know I can come in and help a team down the stretch."

Friday's mini-trade deadline wasn't full of activity. More bodies will be on the move around the NHL when the trade freeze thaws March 1.