Blackhawks start anew by re-signing Johnny Oduya, Jamal Mayers
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org May 29, 2012 10:16PM
Johnny Oduya was what the Hawks wanted — but keeping him could mean trading Niklas Hjalmarsson or others. | Andy Marlin~Getty Images
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:59PM
If there was one underlying message from Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman during his conference call Tuesday to announce the re-signings of defenseman Johnny Oduya and forward Jamal Mayers, it’s that more moves are coming.
It sounded like only a matter of time, especially with Oduya opting not to head to free agency and signing for three years.
‘‘We’re not even into July yet,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘We’re going to still look at making additional changes to our team. You never know how’s that going to shake out.
‘‘Knowing that we’ve at least got [Oduya] back, then we can focus on adding to the mix, whether it be a trade or free agency. Hopefully, we’re going to have some other look to our team. We’re not going to have the identical team we did last year, so the fact that [Oduya] did help us and wanted to come back, it was a good situation for everybody.’’
Bringing back Oduya is another sign the Hawks missed the puck-moving skills of Brian Campbell, but it might also mean they’re willing to part with 24-year-old blue-liner Niklas Hjalmarsson or others to fill other needs. League sources already have suggested Oduya’s re-signing means the Hawks are more open to trading a player such as Hjalmarsson, who has two years left on a deal with a $3.5 million cap hit.
A source said Oduya, 30, will carry a yearly average of $3.375 million with his new deal, a slight decrease from his $3.5 million mark from last season. The Hawks now have nearly $23 million tied up in seven defensemen, including rookie Dylan Olsen.
‘‘There is a lot of reasons for optimism there,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘Defense is going to be the strength of our team.’’
Bowman called signing Oduya one of his top priorities this summer.
‘‘If you can get it done as soon as possible, it’s always something positive,’’ Oduya said. ‘‘There wasn’t much to think about, really.’’
After a consistent regular season and successfully filling the roles he was brought in for last summer, Mayers got a one-year extension ($600,000 cap hit).
‘‘Once you take a step back and take a look at the whole year, I thought it was a good fit, for myself and the Hawks,’’ said Mayers, who was a healthy scratch while the Hawks lost to the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs.
Still, Bowman isn’t left with much salary-cap room now, especially if he wants a different look, as he said.
‘‘You have to be open to trying to improve your team,” he said. ‘‘We’ll come up with some players that we want to target, and we’ll also look at some things leading into the draft that may materialize.’’
Bowman said defenseman Steve Montador (concussion) is in the ‘‘same boat’’ as injured winger Marian Hossa, but he’s optimistic that both will be ready by training camp. Oduya’s signing had little to do with Montador’s status, Bowman added.
‘‘I don’t know if you make any specific moves in anticipation of an injury or status of a player,’’ he said. ‘‘We were looking at it more as, ‘Can we improve our team?’ ’’