What Does Johnny Oduya's New Deal Mean For The Blackhawks?

By Randy Holt

The Chicago Blackhawks made their second re-signing in less than a week, with news that the team is bringing back defenseman Johnny Oduya on a new three-year contract.

Oduya was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets at this year’s trade deadline, for a pair of draft picks, in a move that wasn’t too popular among Hawks fans, at least until Oduya hit the ice. The reaction was similar when the team announced his deal on Tuesday.

During the regular season, Oduya proved to be a very solid addition. He moved the puck very well, contributed on speical teams and was a calming presence for Nick Leddy on the shaky Blackhawks blue line.

His playoff performance, like many on this team, was less than stellar. Oduya’s lack of a physical game hurt him against the relentless forecheck of the Phoenix Coyotes, as he was thrown around like a ragdoll as the Hawks were bounced in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Many figured that series would be enough to let him walk this summer.

Bringing Johnny Oduya back isn’t a big surprise, nor is it necessarily a bad move. He’s taking a slight paycut from the $3.5 million he made last year, though it’s probably not as big a cut as most of us, including myself, would like. It does raise some questions about this team, though.

As of right now, five defenseman are locks to come back, not including the concussed Steve Montador, from a blue line that was pretty bad last season. Not to mention Oduya and Leddy will likely join forces on an incredibly undersized second defensive unit. Does this spell the end of Niklas Hjalmarsson in Chicago? Probably. Does it take the Hawks out of the running to sign one of the top defensemen on the market? Possibly.

I could see a situation where Hjalmarsson ends up traded, but Montador’s future is also up in the air. As far as the former is concerned, the Hawks are not going to pay a third pairing defenseman $3.5 million. If this deal doesn’t signal a Hjammer trade, it could mean that the Hawks aren’t terribly certain that Montador will be able to recover from the concussion issues that plagued him in the second half of the season.

One thing is for certain: the Blackhawks’ summer just got quite a bit more intriguing. They’ll still need to add size to the blue line, among the other tweaks this team needs, so don’t rush to judgement on this deal yet. By itself, it’s not a bad move by Stan Bowman. We’ll see what he does with the rest of the summer, though.

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