A few days ago general manager Stan Bowman said he liked his defensive group, from what he had in Chicago to what was developing in Rockford.
But if the right move at the right price presented itself, Bowman said he’d consider it. On Tuesday the Blackhawks bolstered that defense after all, and with a familiar face.
The Blackhawks reacquired Johnny Oduya from the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night in exchange for Mark McNeill and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. Also, as first reported by Lebrun, the Stars will retain 50 percent of Oduya's salary. Oduya is in the final year of the two-year deal he signed with the Stars as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2015.
The move brings Oduya back to Chicago, where he was part of the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup teams. It also adds a little more depth to a defense that has been stronger this season, but will be without Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) for a few more games. The Blackhawks placed Hjalmarsson on injured reserve on Tuesday night (retroactive to Thursday). Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson will miss the next three games, hopeful the defenseman can return when the Blackhawks come off a four-day break.
In reacquiring Oduya, Bowman didn't give up much. TSN's Bob McKenzie reported that the conditional fourth-round pick could become a third-round pick in 2018, dependent on how much Oduya plays and how far the Blackhawks go into the postseason.
As for McNeill, he never broke through with the Blackhawks. A first-round draft pick (18th overall) in the 2011 NHL draft, McNeill played in just one game with the Blackhawks (last season, against the Carolina Hurricanes).
If there's any concern with Oduya it's how he is health-wise the rest of the way. The 35-year-old just returned from an ankle injury (one that was re-aggravated) that kept him sidelined for more than a month. Oduya, who had a goal and six assists in 37 games with the Stars this season, returned to Dallas lineup on Sunday vs. the Boston Bruins. But Stars general manager Jim Nill told the Dallas media that Oduya is fine.
"Health was an issue, but we had all the medical records and he's healthy now," Nill said following the deal. "He would have played [Tuesday] night if he wasn't getting traded, so that wasn't an issue."
As for how much talk there was with the Blackhawks regarding Oduya, Nill told the media, "they had him, won a Cup with him, they know what he brings, so they’re a team that was always talking to us."
When Oduya will join the team is uncertain at this time. The Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.