Tuesday, the Blackhawks announced they have re-signed veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya and forward Jamal Mayers.
Oduya, who will carry a cap hit of $3.375 million, was acquired by the Blackhawks at the trade deadline last season, and made an immediate impact on the defense. He was one of the better players down the stretch (5 points and +3 rating in 18 games), but struggled mightily in the playoffs (3 points, +1). Despite those respectable numbers, Oduya fumbled and turned over the puck again and again, and was more of a liability than an asset.
While the Hawks defense is certainly better with Oduya in the lineup, the signing fails to address the defense’s overall lack of physicality. Oduya is another in a long line (Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy) of speedy, smallish puck movers. The Hawks will need to address the overall size and grit of their blue line before the puck drops next season.
Mayers, who signed as a free agent last July, was one of the most consistent Blackhawks all season. His mix or leadership, grit, and versatility is something the Hawks could ill afford to lose. While Mayers was benched for the tail end of the Phoenix series, it likely had more to do with the Hawks’ inability to score on Mike Smith than it did on his lack of solid play. To me, this move was a no brainer…especially for a $600k cap hit.
The offseason is underway. Draft day and July 1st’s free agency opening should be busy days for the Blackhawks, who have a number of moves to make if they want to get back to legit contention.