For general manager Stan Bowman, bringing back Johnny Oduya had been a possibility for some time. Getting him at the right price made it a reality.
Oduya, who arrived in Chicago on Wednesday but didn't play against the Pittsburgh Penguins that night, was acquired from the Dallas Stars in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft and Mark McNeill. The Blackhawks wanted to hang on to some of their prime assets, including draft picks for this summer's draft, which they host. But over the last few days each side got what it wanted.
"There comes a point when you have to keep your top assets, which I would say are your first- and second-round picks, as well as top prospects. When you have other discussions, those are the names that always come up and those are the assets they're asking for, and we weren't prepared to do that," Bowman said. "This was a price we're comfortable with. It allows us to maintain a lot of our prime assets going forward."
The familiarity Oduya has with the Blackhawks was certainly a selling point. But Bowman said it went beyond that, from Oduya's fitness level to previous work with Niklas Hjalmarsson to he's strength on special teams.
"In Johnny's case, he's still playing at a high level. He's always been incredible fitness level so he takes care of himself, trains hard, so that's the one thing we thought of," Bowman said. "The one element he may help us the most is the penalty kill, having another defenseman you can use. It can be problematic sometimes when one of your top defensemen takes a penalty and you're looking for guys you have that confidence in. Johnny's really strong in that area."
Coach Joel Quenneville said earlier today that they'll give Oduya, who's coming off an ankle injury, all the time he needs to get back to normal. Bowman said that had more to do with Oduya getting back to game pace than anything.
"He's played, so he's certainly not injured still," Bowman said, referring to Oduya's game on Sunday, his last with the Stars. "How sharp he is, that's the one thing. When you're out for a bit, it may take longer to get up to speed with the pace we want to play at. He may need a few more practices. We'll have a better sense of that [Thursday]."
Bowman said he wasn't really close to doing anything else. He reiterated what he said on Friday following the Tomas Jurco trade, that he was happy with how the forward lines have fallen into form and how the progress of young guys like Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero has continued.
Now for the slightly tweaked Blackhawks to see if the right price they paid leads to the right results come spring.
"I really liked the team we had here, even before we were able to add Johnny to the mix. Certainly when we have him now it gives our team that full complement of experience, depth and especially on the defensive side," Bowman said. "Up front, you see the progression of a lot of our younger players. They've come a long way in the last couple of months to being difference makers on our team. So I like the way the group is looking from top to bottom."