June 24, 2010

Byfuglien dealt to Thrashers; how are the NYI affected?

For those of you who missed it last night, a huge 9-player trade went down between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Atlanta Thrashers. Forwards Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu, and defenseman Brent Sopel were all sent to Atlanta in return for the 24th and 54th overall picks in the upcoming draft, as well as forwards Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb and Jeremy Morin.

Quite a surprise to see the Blackhawks deal Byfuglien so soon after the playoff run he just had, however we knew the Blackhawks were going to shed salary. We just figured they'd do it in other areas first. The reported asking price for Big Buff, who will make $3 million next season, was a 1st round pick and a prospect. One of the stumbling blocks in past deals for the Hawks was that they tried to get any team interested in their players to take Sopel and his $2.3 million as well.

So how does this affect the Islanders? Earlier in the week, Chris Botta made his case for the Islanders to make a trade with the Hawks for Kris Versteeg. Many felt he would be available as the thought was when it came to the core, the Hawks considered Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp part of that and Versteeg as a complementary player.

While the Hawks still need to cut more salary, they are expected to either move or bury goalie Cristobal Huet and his $5.6 million per for the next two years in the minors. Once that happens, the chances of Versteeg moving will be lower, but not completely out of the question. The team still needs to sign valuable restricted free-agents Antti Niemi, Jack Skille and Andrew Ladd, as well as Brent Seabrook after next season.

If I'm the Islanders I still go after him, obviously. He brings many elements that are currently lacking, and there is still work to be done in Chicago. If Garth Snow wasn't on the phone with the Hawks by now, he should give them a call soon before the need to trade Versteeg lessens and the asking price goes up.

Given the many factors that point to the Islanders being one of the better fits for Versteeg, there is no reason not to keep trying. While he's not the biggest guy in the world, he is a 20-goal scorer, which is something Snow said he would look into in the offseason. The free agent crop isn't the greatest when it comes to finding guys in this mold, who also fit the system.

All hope is not lost on a trade, but it is very fair to say that the chances took a slight blow last night.

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