The Hawks sent postseason superstar Dustin Byfuglien, defenseman Brent Sopel, winger Ben Eager, and prospect Akim Aliu to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for a first and second round pick (24th and 54th overall in Friday's NHL Entry Draft) as well as center Marty Reasoner and prospect Jeremy Morin.
Mornin is a prospect projected to be a scorer in the NHL, though his 47 points and 36 assists in the minors will likely not reproduce themselves next year. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this impending trade is that the additional two picks will give the Hawks a total of FIVE out of the first SIXTY picks. Considering Jerry Angelo is not making these picks, this puts the already-talented Hawks in a supreme position to add noteworthy talent to their system.
On the down side, there will be no more Big Buff Boom Boom taking place in a Hawk uniform next year. While the winger's value certainly has never been higher, following his excellent run in the playoffs, seeing this man leave town is still a sad thing. I almost hate to bring up all of the criticism surrounding him during the season, or to remind everyone that his "versatility" as a defenseman had everyone on the edge of their seats during the Nashville series. I will miss Big Buff as much as anyone, but I see this trade as a positive one for the Hawks.
Considering that Sopel and Eager are guys that certainly can be replaced on the roster (by Jordan Hendry and Jack Skille without even considering any of the two new players from the Thrashers or any draft picks), essentially the Hawks got both a fist and second round pick for Byfuglien; assuming Sopel/Eager and Reasoner/Morin cancel out.
Furthermore, this trade helps to set up a few other moves and fill a likely hole. The Hawks will clear around $4 million assuming this deal goes through. This is certainly handy for a team that needs to clear cap space in hopes of resigning free agents Antti Niemi, Patrick Sharp, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Free agent centerman John Madden will likely not be resigned by the team either, and Reasoner can easily be slid into this vacancy at center.
I cannot stress the joy that Byfuglien and his slap-happy antics brought me over the past few years; he is truly a delight to watch... when he is performing well. I wish him all the best at his new location, and certainly I have a new team to root for when the Hawks are not playing, but no one is truly sure just how good he is. This trade could look like gold in a few seasons... it could also keep a lot of Buff-lovers angry for quite some time.
Unfortunately, these are the types of things that happen to any championship sports team. The fanbase never wants to see anyone go, but there is always turnover in the offseason no matter how well your team did. Assuming that Niemi and Hjalmarsson are going to get their deals (because they should be the first two Hawk free agents to be locked up), given the choice between Sharp and Byfuglien, I'd say the Hawks made the right choice.
Sharp performed throughout the regular season as well as the playoffs and turned in a much more thorough and consistent effort than the beloved Byfuglien. I will miss him, and we all should celebrate the Cup a few more times in his honor, but for sheer value alone, this trade appears to be a positive one for the Hawks.
Let's see exactly what GM Stan Bowman ends up doing with this cleared cap space and these draft picks. Anyone teetering on the plank because of the Big Buff departure may feel a lot better once the finished product can at least be viewed on paper. Either way, let's all remember that right now, at this very moment, we all still have Kane, Towes, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, Bolland, Campbell, Ladd etc... etc... (plenty to be happy and excited about, regardless of anyone else, for a nice long time)