Chicago agrees to send Byfuglien, Sopel to Atlanta

The Chicago Blackhawks appear to have solved some of their impending salary cap woes with one quick, decisive move.

The newly crowned Stanley Cup champions apparently have a deal in place with the Atlanta Thrashers that will send Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu to Atlanta in exchange for Marty Reasoner and Jeremy Morin. Chicago will also receive Atlanta’s 24th overall draft pick at the upcoming NHL Entry Draft as well as their 54th overall pick.

Rumors have swirled for several days that Byfuglien could become one of the first cap casualties from the Blackhawks.  The 25-year-old originally started off as a defenseman, but soon showed a lot of promise on forward and emerged as a star in the eyes of many during Chicago’s postseason run at the Stanley Cup just a few weeks ago. During 22 playoff games with the Blackhawks, Byfuglien tallied 11 goals and five assists – including several game-winning gems. He drew parallel comparisons to players like Ryan Smythe and Tomas Holmstrom for his strong net-front presence.

While this trade gives Chicago some wiggle room, they may not be done moving players around just yet. Once this trade goes through, Chicago will be just shy of $6 million under the cap, but the team only has 13 players signed for next season. Six million isn’t a lot of room to bring in roughly 8 players – especially if the team intends to resign restricted free agent goaltender Antti Niemi. Niemi is due for a considerable raise from the $800,000 he made last year. Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg are also receiving heavy interest from other clubs around the NHL.

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