Blackhawks Trade Rewind: Putting the Byfuglien Deal Into Focus

As fans flock to Johnny’s West to watch the future of the Blackhawks, it’s worth a few moments to consider how some of these kids ended up as part of the Chicago organization.

On June 23 last year, the team made a blockbuster trade that, for most of the 2010-11 season, was the source of an overwhelming amount of “What if?” questions. The Hawks made the infamous deal sending, among others, Dustin Byfuglien to the Atlanta Thrashers.

Most fans considered that deal a bust, and many still wish Big Buff was in Chicago. But if we look at the deal with 12 months’ hindsight, was the deal really an overwhelming loss for the Hawks?

As a brief reminder of that trade, here’s what went down:

  • To Atlanta
    Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel & Akim Aliu
  • To Chicago
    Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb, Jeremy Morin & two picks (New Jersey’s 1st & 2nd in 2011)

Now let’s look at what the trade looked like on the last day of the 2010-11 season:

  • To Atlanta
    Dustin Byfuglien, Akim Aliu, Ben Maxwell & San Jose’s 2011 5th round pick
  • To Chicago
    Jeff Taffe, Jeremy Morin, Kevin Hayes, Justin Holl

If we break this deal down based only on the NHL performance of the players during the 2010-11 season, this is an obvious win for the Thrashers (now Jets). Byfuglien, a full-time defenseman, was named an All-Star and had a career year with 53 points. He played well enough that the organization handed him a five-year, $26M contract before leaving Atlanta.

The Hawks saw minimal NHL action from Morin and Taffe, but Taffe played an outstanding season for the organization. He led Rockford in scoring (67 points in 77 games) and, by all accounts, was a good veteran leader for a young IceHogs team.

But let’s look into the future for a moment.

Byfuglien earned his contract and All-Star appearance, and then disappeared in the second half of the season. After piling up 41 points in 52 games before the break, he added just 12 points and was minus-five in the season’s final 29 contests.

Aliu, a bit of a wildcard after he was one of the Hawks’ top prospects for a couple years, split last year between three different organizations and struggled at all three stops. In total, he scored 21 goals and added 17 assists to go with 95 penalty minutes in 75 games.

For the Blackhawks, a big part of this trade is on display this weekend.

Kevin Hayes, the player selected with the first of the two picks acquired in the deal, dealt with an injury during his freshman year at Boston College but has looked very good at prospect camp this weekend.

Something else to consider: after selecting Kevin in the first round, the Hawks traded for his older brother, Jimmy, early on the second day of the 2010 Draft. So far this weekend, Jimmy has been the most dominant forward at the camp.

Holl, who also spent last year as a freshman in college, put on some weight and added lower body strength. He’s still a good skater and handles the puck well, but has looked more physical this weekend than he did last year.

In another stroke of fate, Holl’s ice time last year at the University of Minnesota probably increased when the Golden Gophers unexpectedly lost one of their top blue line players to a professional contract and, ultimately, the NHL: Nick Leddy.

Hayes and Morin could both wind up in the Blackhawks’ top six at some point in the next five years, and Holl adds an intriguing mix of size and puck handling to a deep group of talented defensemen in the Hawks organization. On the other end , Byfuglien has five more years with a cap hit over $5M with the now-Winnipeg Jets.

So, while the 2011-12 season may have left fans wondering what could have been if Byfuglien was still with the Hawks, seeing what the future may hold this weekend because of the trade should give fans a reason for continued hope.

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8 Responses to Blackhawks Trade Rewind: Putting the Byfuglien Deal Into Focus

  1. Brad Stevenson says:

    If I had to do it over again, I would do the same thing…going forward with Morin, Hayes (which no doubt led to the other Hayes) and Holl could very well become a cornerstone of the franchise, and keeping Buff would have meant moving Sharp…

    So, I liked the deal and still do…

  2. Tim Adams says:

    i admit i was against it last year but now looking at it I’m happy with the move

  3. mike says:

    We don’t lose to Vancouver in Round One if we still have Buff.

  4. Smokinmedic1 says:

    Not necessarily Mike. If you look at Buff’s number’s during the regular season of the Cup year, he was pretty invisible and then came up to shine in the playoffs. He disappeared in Atlanta this past year after he got his contract. Not sure having him on the Hawks would have made the difference in the round 1 loss to the Nucks. The Hawks played with a ton of heart in round 1 after being down 3 games to none, and it was one lucky play by Vancouver in OT of game 7 that gave the Hawks an early vacation. They needed the rest and will dominate going into this coming season.

  5. Richard A. says:

    Byfuglien carried the Thrashers on his back in the first half of the season, but as he disappeared in the second half of the season, so did Atlanta, who were actually competitive and fun to watch for the first half. His track record of consistency for entire season again came into play. Did the big contract have anything to do with it?
    The numbers:

    G A Pts +/- PPG PPA GWG
    First 41 games 15 25 40 +6 5 12 5
    Last 40 games 5 8 13 -8 3 4 1

    I was one of the few who liked the trade originally and I stand by it. I agree that Morin has huge upside and so does Hayes and I believe are going to make an impact on this team at some point. And of course, as Brad mentioned, the Hawks are now able to sign Patrick Sharp the contract that he has earned here in Chicago.

  6. Joel says:

    We all forget that Andrew Ladd, one of the most popular guys in the locker room and a good player on the ice could have been kept for what 2.35 million last season (now gets 4.4M cap hit a year for next five). He is 25 right now and has two rings already. He must be doing something right.

    Oh yeah, he now wears the “C” for The J-E-T-S Jets.

  7. Melissa says:

    I completely agree with Joel. I think think the biggest impact player we lost that was Ladd. When it comes to Buff, you have to decide bettween him or Sharp and I think Sharp has proven himself on the ice and I think even more importantly in the lockerroom. Think about get rid of Sharp whos going to keep things light?

  8. Tyler says:

    I was a huge Buff fan and was very disappointed to see him go, but I knew it was something that had to happen and that the time was right for us to get the highest return on his value (considering his performance in the playoffs). He had been just another guy during the regular season (before this year), and I definitely would rather have Sharp than Buff. I was/am cautiously optimistic about the haul we received. There are some solid prospects there that could become solid contributors to the team in the least.

    To me, the biggest loss in that trade was Sopel, and he could have been a key factor in the Canucks series. Sure, he skates like a toddler with a full diaper, but he blocks every shot that comes near him and is a reliable penalty killer. That was something we lacked late in the season and in the playoffs.

    I still believe the biggest loss of the 2010 off-season was Ladd. He could be the 2nd line player we’re so desperately searching for right now. Could you imagine Brunette/Toews/Hossa; Ladd/Sharp/Kane; Bickel/Bolland/Frolik?!

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