Chicago Sun-Times

Bowman talks about trading Byfuglien to Atlanta

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buff.jpgLAS VEGAS -- Just after midnight, it became official.

Dustin Byfuglien, restricted free agent Ben Eager, veteran defenseman Brent Sopel and prospect Akim Aliu were traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for the 24th overall pick in the NHL draft (which starts Friday), the 54th overall pick, veteran forward Marty Reasoner, winger Joey Crabb (who has starred in Chicago with the Wolves) and promising prospect Jeremy Morin.

The holdup? Some contracts Atlanta had to get off their books.

Hawks GM Stan Bowman and Thrashers GM Rick Dudley each spoke with the media early Thursday or late Wednesday, depending what time zone you were in.

Here are some of the highlights with Bowman's 12:30 a.m. conference call: I did find it interesting that Bowman referred to Jack Skille and Bryan Bickell as players the Hawks are looking for to step up in place of Byfuglien, a star in the playoffs. Skille and Bickell are restricted free agents and still need to be signed.

Q: On why the deal took so long to be announced:

SB: "It was really just a league rule in terms of the reserve list. Atlanta had to make some moves before they were able to take on the additional players to their roster. ... We were just in a holding pattern there for a while."

On the deal itself:

SB: "There was a lot of interest in Buff, obviously. He's a really good player. He had an excellent playoffs, which is probably fresh in a lot of people's minds. I think that was something that played a role. From our perspective this is exactly what we set out to accomplish, which was to get some top draft choices as well as a top prospect. We've been planning to do this type of transaction for a long time. It accomplishes what we had to do. The only reason we were trading Buff is not because of his performance or because we don't like him. It was simply a salary-cap move. In order to make it work, we couldn't take players that made a lot of money back. We had to take future things back. That's how this came to be. It's what we set out to do and we were able to accomplish it."

Q: On the dialogue with Atlanta GM Rick Dudley and whether or not he was pushing for the eighth pick over the 24th:

SB: "We had a lot of calls. That's for sure. We were on the phone many hours over the last few days. When you get a bigger deal like this, there are a lot of complexities to it. We had a lot of other considerations and discussions, and we finally settled on this. I guess with any trade call there is a lot of give take as to what you want and what they want to give and what they want from you. It doesn't happen overnight. But I think we're very satisfied with where it ended up."

On who will be able to do what Byfuglien did for the Hawks and how much are the Hawks' salary-cap woes relieved with this move:

SB: "We'll still explore other ways to maybe make changes. We won't necessarily have to do anything else. But there are some other opportunities out there and some options we've been presented already that we're going to think about the next day or two. In terms of next year, I don't know if you want to say there is one guy that can replicate what Buff did. There is more than one way to approach it. We're obviously going to have some younger guys step in and play bigger roles. I think we saw a little bit of Bryan Bickell this year in terms of his ability to be a big body out there. He's a big guy like Buff. He's got some skill. He can skate. He's just younger and hasn't maybe had the opportunity yet. We're hoping that he can play a bigger role next year and some other guys as well. You don't exactly have to approach it the exact same way as Buff -- he's a special kind of player. There's a few different ways you can make up for the loss of him. But he's a great player and we're certainly going to miss him."

On whether he is concerned about losing some physicality with trade of Byfuglien and Eager:

SB: "First and foremost, [Byfuglien] was a pretty really talented player. In some ways, he was more of skill player than anything else. He had really good hands. He was a big body but I think, first and foremost, he could play the game which is something we've always stressed. If you're big and tough and you can play, that's great. But if you're big and tough and you struggle to be able to handle the puck or be able to skate than you're not as much use to a team like us.

"We're going to have some guys from within emerge with some bigger roles. We kind of saw that emerge as the year wore on. A guy like [Tomas] Kopecky, who most of the year was on the fourth line and even in and out of the lineup a little bit, [but] by the end of the playoffs he was playing on a top line. He's a big strong guy. He's physical. He goes to the net. I think a guy like Kopecky is going to have a bigger role next season. I think I mentioned Bickell and there is some other young guys, [Jack] Skille and those kind of guys. I think we'll have Jake Dowell in the lineup. He's certainly going to get a chance to play on our team. He brings a lot of that rugged play as well. We're going to have to look at the free-agent market and trades as well. We're going to have some openings. We are going to have to address that."

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26 Comments

Stan is smoking dope if he thinks trading Buff improves this team. A soft team just got softer. The NHL is now licking its chops to play the defending champs. What a way to be rewarded for his work during the playoffs. Thanks, now get the hell out of here.

im 50 years old african american i was so proud to see that and african american was part of winning a stanley cup. what a slap in the african comunity face that u got ride of buff when you had other options its odvous the black hawks organization dont care about its african american fan base. right now im hurt!

OMG,... What a mistake, Dustin, played such a big part in wining our first cup in 49 years, couldn't you (GM) have found someone else to move.
This is a sad day for us who believed in Dustin
and what he brought to this team. I'm in shock !
Clay Holman
(Thornton, CO)
Formerly Chicago, IL

Good luck with Atlanta Dustin. You will be missed!!

INCREDIBLE.

The Chicago Blackhawks are becoming the NHL's version of MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks.

Guys, what you don't understand is these moves were necessary. The NHL CBA mandates a hard cap with NO exceptions, roster minimums and maximums. There was just simply not enough available money to go around. If the Hawks kept Buff, Eager, etc. there would be enough available to keep 14-15 players on the roster. You can't do that. Something had to give. These moves net the Hawks about $4.2 mil of cap space.

We're lucky this was pulled off with as much in return and cap space benefit. Stock in Buff is as high as it's been and, most likely, will never be higher. Trading Buff, Eager, Sopel, Frasier allows you to keep Hjalmarsson, Neimi, Ladd, maybe Burish (probably not) and other role players ready to come up from the minor leagues.

I THINK YOU ALL FORGET 'BIG BUFF' HAD THE WORST +/- RATIO ON THE ENTIRE TEAM.

IF YOU TRULY THINK THIS WAS A BAD DEAL, YOU HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT HOCKEY AND JUST JOINED BLACKHAWKS BANDWAGON.

Why does the race card have to be played all of the time?

The only way to guarantee you WON'T repeat as champs is to assume your existing team (if you can afford to keep them) will have IDENTICAL or better seasons two years in a row. The trick is letting go of someone who you can survive without.

Big Buff played great in the playoffs, but prior to that was a non-factor. Yes he was bi-racial, but that should not be a reason to keep anyone on any team. His bi-racial makeup wasn't why he was a good hockey player--hard work was.

I imagine Bowman would have loved to keep 99% of the team intact, but hockey is serious about their cap, and with free agency and everyone wanting to cash in, it can't happen.

Best of luck to Dustin & Sopel & Eager---wish we could have dumped Huet & Campbell's contracts instead.

I love comments that bring Dustin's race into this. Grow up people. It was a salary cap move that had to be done.

Great move.

I liked what he did but remember everyone that Buff had the worst +/- on the team -7 for the season. Not good. I trust Stan to find us a big guy to stand in front of the goalie and be annoying.

It's more important to make sure we can keep Sharp.

I have stated in numerous posts that I am a hockey novice. Guess why? No ice skating rinks in my neighborhood as a child and was not allowed into the other people's rink(s) when my parents tried to take me.

So I ice-skated in the streets in winter. It was not the same because I was simply sliding or skidding along ice streets and alleys. But my friends and I still had fun falling down and laughing while tossing snow on one another. We even tried using home-made hockey sticks and used a can for a puck. We didn't know what the heck we were were doing we just being kids having fun.

Therefore, for those who think some are bandwagon fans and wonder why race came up, I interpret west side rob statement!

It was just nice to see a Black man mix it up on the ice and be able to view the hits taken or given not as a white or black thing. It was simply a game of hockey being played.

But I recognize why some of the other posters do not distinguish a Black American or maybe better stated a Black Chicagoan(s) are dismayed Dustin Byfuglien has been traded.

West Side Rob, I feel you man. Let's continue to follow the team and hope another Black player - just one - is picked up by the Blackhawks.

Rob, it takes another Black man to distinguished your words are not about race, but more about commonality.

bowman caused this problem with him missing the mailing deadline last summer because of his overlooking the Canadian HOliday and thus causing a delay in the mail. This jerk was sold to us, not as having a famous baby daddy, and it being a clear patronage hire, but rather, sold to us as a details guy---a guy who went, not to hockey rinks,, but Notre Dame business school, attention to detail, budgeting, forecasting, predicatibility modeling his specialities...and dude misses a mailing deadline that cost the hawks added millions to Versteeg, and Barker and a couple others...and Bowman who was assistant gm at the time, cost his boss his job, Tallon took the fall for the "detail" Bowman should have not overlooked.

Now we have to dump players because we paid too much, because of Bowman. Sure Tallon has blood on his hands from Campbell and Huet, but Bowman caused part of this...dumping Buff is a bad move..bad PR (affirmative action), bad move (came alive in the Playoffs, shutting down Pronger, having 5 game winners)....this is Bowmans first real move on anytyhing as a GM...I think he's going to be a goof.

Dealing with ATlanta, because Dudley is a former Hawk player, coach and front office guy----surprised he didnt deal with Florida given Tallons there. Dude needs to get aggressive, should have gotten a heck of a lot more for Buff in draft picks, minor leaguers and journeyman.

We're doomed with this goof and a non hockey president in Pope John above him. It was a nice ride folks, but it was Tallons ride, not these two dopes. The old man cant help little bowman, he knows x's and o's, not bargaining, negotiating, dealing.

Oh well.

It would come down to race wouldn't it? Here's how to look at it: Byfuglien for a first-rounder..wash. Eager and Sopel are good, but not second-round good. We HAD to move people. Right now EVERY player seems irreplaceable with the fresh memories of the Cup in our minds.

Buff stood out in the playoffs but remember his mediocre 80 games prior?

If we follow West Side Rob's logic, they should keep Buff BECAUSE he is black....kind of counters your logic Rob. Just enjoy what he did and move on.

During the playoffs, Toews & Kane were being peeled off the glass because they were being hit by the other teams enforcers. Coach Q made moves to put the Hawks bigger guys to counteract. Now 3 of the Hawks bigger guys are gone.

No matter what you need the enforcers who will protect the team's scorers. Finesse is useless if it isn't being protected.

Remember the Boston Bruins of the '70's? They were huge!!

Tough decisions clearly had to be made because of the salary cap situation. It's part of the business but it is too bad that these moves had to be done so quickly because of the draft. It would be nice if the players, especially those traded, could enjoy the excitement of winning the Stanley Cup a bit longer. Regarding the other comments, I'm a minority and am disappointed that someone feels like this is a race issue on any level by saying that was why Buff was traded. Correct me if I'm wrong but what exactly are Sopel and Eager?

Trading Big Buff is a huge mistake.He scored 5 game winning goals in the playoffs and he adds a physical presence while he is on the ice.Trading Huet and Madden would free up a lot of money, that they could have used to sign other free agents that they already have.Stan Bowmen is an idiot that will destroy the team with his stupid trades, the Hawks should get rid of him and his dad before they do any more damage.They are no better than Dale Tallen.

Trading Big Buff is a huge mistake.He scored 5 game winning goals in the playoffs and he adds a physical presence while he is on the ice.The Hawks should trade Huet and Madden to free up money to sign the free agents they already have.Stan Bowmen is an idiot and the Hawks should get rid of him and his dad before any more damage is done.The Hawks trade away all the good players.Chelios,Roenick,Havlet,Savard,Steve Thomas just to name a few.

For Ken phx.az -- John Madden is an unrestricted free agent... he cannot be traded. Also there is not a single GM in the league that would take Huet's current contract. You have NO idea what you're talking about. Jump off the bandwagon, Byfuglien sucks.

This was as close to a perfect trade as there can be. The Hawks created some cap breathing room and the Thrash got some quality players that improve their team imeeeeediatly. The trade will also benefit the players the Hawks moved. All 4 had very limited ice time. Even Buff didn't get the ice time until the playoffs. How do we know the guys traded aren't happy. They've won a cup now they can go somewhere and be key players to a team as opposed to role players.

Dear "Blame Canada,"

Unfortunately you don't know how completely wrong you are. To correct you it was DALE TALLON that had the filing deadline issue with Versteeg. He was the one in charge of making sure the details were taken care of. Tallon deserves full credit for assembling this team and putting together a Stanley Cup Champion team, for at least one year.

Was it Bowman that paid Huet almost $6mil/year/4?
Was it Bowman that paid Campbell +$7mile/year/8?
Was it Bowman that paid Hossa almost $6mil/year/8?
(cap hit numbers)

No, it was the group headed by Dale Tallon. This salary dump is directly linked to former GM Tallon… also, see Havlat, Khabibulin, etc. He was just getting started with free agent splash big contracts the first season after the lockout (his first year as GM btw). None of this was Bowman, it was all lead by Tallon to bring the Cup to Chicago. The core is still intact and the role players are expendable.

Given those bloated contracts, the Versteeg RFA filing snafu is peanuts and did not cost "millions" as you suggest. In fact, given the CBA RFA rules, it cost about $800,000/year more than he should have (especially being a then 25 yr/old Calder candidate). Yes, it cost the team, but not NEARLY as much as that Campbell contract. Furthermore, the Bowmans were “advisors” and did not have the check signing status AT THAT TIME that Tallon had. Tallon brought the Cup here, plain and simple. He also created this budget crisis/salary dump situation KNOWING he was building a contender. Look at Buffalo before they lost Briere, same exact situation. They were built to win THAT year… and hope for more. It didn’t happen for them, luckily, because of Tallon, it happened for us. In the same vein, because of Tallon, the team must disperse assets.

Contrary to your conjecture, the stock in Buff, Eager and Sopel will NEVER be higher than it is right now. Yes, Buff was an incredibly effective net presence for the playoffs… but that can be taught and replicated by other roster players. The Hawks had to make moves, and they made one. This was a great package that paved the way to replace UFA Madden as well as providing much needed cap relief. If the Hawks “got more than a few draft picks, prospect and journeyman” as you suggest, the goal of cap relief would not have been achieved. You obviously don’t understand the mechanics. What it comes down to is Atlanta got what they needed (size, grit, leadership) and the Hawks got what they needed (cap relief, continual veteran presence for less than Madden). I’m not happy to see Buff leave (loved him since he wore #52) but given the cards dealt, this is an excellently bargained and negotiated deal.

Regardless of which Bowman you are referring to, they are responsible for making multiple champions of the Red Wings by understanding the game, they are doing the same job here.

so sad that race comes into every conversation involving a minority. Buff was a fan favorite, great in the playoffs (again), but average during the season. Hawks picked up good space, good prospect, good picks. I'm more surprised Eager went too as toughness isn't so tough on the Hawks anymore.

This was a great trade for the Hawks. I agree with what was said, it gives them a little bit of cap releif as well as some quality young players. Morin is a great young talent, tore up the OHL last year, plus a 1st and 2nd this year and Reasoner who is a cheaper John Madden. I can not see what is wrong with that. So what, we gave up Eager and Sopel and Buff. Who would you rather give up sharp or buff? Not that hard of a decision to make. I am sure Versteeg will go in the next couple of days, possibly Ladder too. The idea situation would be to package Versteeg and Huet and see if we can get any team to bite on that.

I'm really hurt, man....there are no Polish players on the roster. Y'all gotta get over this race thing.
Buff was great in the playoffs but was -7 in the regular season and, therefore, vastly overpaid. Think about it, until Coach Q shuffled the line-up against Philly, Pronger essentially negated Buff. You don't think the rest of the league saw that and would have adjusted moving forward??
These money moves didn't come completely unexpected if you were paying attention during the year. At least the organization is getting something of value in this deal...that's something that wouldn't have happened with past regimes.

This was a huge mistake. Who cares about regular season plus minus. During the regular season Buff was on several different lines and was yanked between offense and defense. But in the Stanley Cup the Hawks won 16 games and Buff scored the game winner 5 times. Don't be dumb Hawk fans. That is 31% of the game winning goals. Do you think you can easily replace that kind of production. Plus, his hits on Pronger and physical tone totally changed the momentum of the Philadelphia series. Next year,if we struggle against the physical teams, remember this email.

Stan Bowman is trying to become the next "Mike McCaskey and "Tommy Ivan " rolled into one. As far as I'm concerned Big Buff and Versteg were untouchables. Many others could have been traded.As I feared this will be a "One season dynasty."Buff and Versteg have great potential and everybody they got are strictly mediocre marginal players.Bill Wirtz just smiled in his grave.Rocky, how could you let this happen!!!!

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Adam L. Jahns is a native Chicagoan hailing from the Far Northwest Side. Jahns has been with the Sun-Times for more than four years, covering the Hawks, Bears, Cubs, Sox and high schools.

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