ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks aren't accustomed to being sellers at the NHL trade deadline. For a decade, they were always the team looking for acquisitions to strengthen their chances at a Stanley Cup run.
But for the past several seasons, the Blackhawks have been on the opposite end of the spectrum.
On Monday, they declared themselves sellers by trading defenseman Erik Gustafsson and goaltender Robin Lehner to playoff contenders in separate moves to recoup future assets. And for players, saying goodbye to teammates is never fun, especially when they're well-respected.
Jonathan Toews gave a long answer about what Lehner and Gustafsson meant to the team, both on and off the ice.
"Losing Lenny, losing Gus, I think those two guys have meant a lot to this team in the short time they've been here," Toews said. "Lenny came in right away and sometimes you're not too sure how those strong personalities are going to fit into a locker room, especially right away. A lot of guys kind of dip their toes in the water when they come to a new team but Lenny just jumped right in. Right away, you could tell he was genuine and he cared about winning and he brought a lot of leadership to the room.
"I told him many times, too, that he helped me as a captain. I think he helped some of our veteran guys that have been here a long time kind of wake up to get back to what makes us good players and good leaders, and try and get this team going in the right direction. He brought a lot in the short time he was here. Even today you feel that absence. Wish him the best.
"Same goes for Gus. He was one of those guys that had a ton of skill and just kept getting better every single day. Obviously, he's the type of player that has a ton of upside and he's going to keep getting better as he goes along. Calgary's getting a really good player and a great teammate with him."
Patrick Kane echoed those sentiments.
"You have mixed feelings," Kane said. "Thought those two guys that we traded away were really good players for our team. It's never fun to see teammates go, so there's definitely some mixed feelings there."
That's the difficult part of the business. The Blackhawks understand that. That doesn't make it any easier to accept reality.
"You never like to see friends leave," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "As teammates, that's tough, and both guys are very well-liked and played well for us. But at the same time, we're trying to collect assets and make the team better long-term. So, understand that."
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