Johnny Oduya was going to give the Blackhawks some time.
He won two Stanley Cups in Chicago. He contemplated re-signing here but it was going to take time to figure out things financially, given the Blackhawks’ salary-cap situation.
But it didn’t work out. And now, Oduya joins another former Blackhawks teammate on a division rival.
Oduya signed a two-year-contract worth $7.5 million ($3.75 cap hit) with the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. The Stars continue to grab Blackhawks, after trading for Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt on Friday.
General manager Stan Bowman said last week after the Blackhawks acquired Daley that Oduya’s possible return was a “fluid” situation. Oduya had a cap hit of $3.375 in his final contract with the Blackhawks, who are just a shade under the $71.4 million cap they have to be under to start the season. But on Tuesday, Oduya’s agent Don Meehan confirmed that his client would not re-sign with the Blackhawks.
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“Obviously they were trying to make something work. As a player, you want to wait when there’s somebody in the situation like that that’s willing to maybe look into a little bit more, that’s there’s an option to stay,” Oduya said via conference call on Wednesday. “But as time progresses, other things become more interesting and maybe you start to, how you say, see yourself in a different spot.”
Now Oduya joins a Stars team that is looking “to start moving up,” as their general manager Jim Nill said. The Stars have plenty of youth but were looking for defensive help and veteran leadership, especially after trading Daley. Oduya brings that.
“When we went back in spring and doing evaluation of the team, we knew we wanted to get strong on the back end. Once we knew we were going to lose Daley, [signing Oduya] was something we wanted to look at,” Nill said. “We were comfortable coming into the season. But if you can add someone of Johnny’s stature, you can’t go wrong.”
Sharp also possessed the leadership and Cup-winning pedigree the Stars wanted. Oduya said he got a text from Sharp a few days ago.
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“I don’t know if that was the breaking point in making a decision,” Oduya said. “But of course, if you have a guy like that giving [Dallas] a lot of credit, that’s something you take in your evaluation.”
The Blackhawks’ offseason of change continues. They’ve already parted ways with three players who played key roles in two or three of these Stanley Cup victories. They still have work to do. They want to re-sign Marcus Kruger; Kruger’s agent J.P. Barry said last week that he and Kruger will practice “patience” as they look for a multi-year contract.
Oduya and the Blackhawks tried to make it work again. It didn’t. Now Oduya sees himself in a different spot.
“Maybe last year was not the result [the Stars] wanted. But every time you played them they were a tough team to play against. The potential was there. It could be just a matter of one or two players maturing more, taking that extra step and breaking through that barrier,” Oduya said. “The leadership was good and the coaching is there now. There are some additions on goaltending, too. I think all parts look good. It’s just a matter of taking that next step.”