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."