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Skille traded to Panthers for Frolik, Salak

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

EDMONTON, Alberta — Jack Skille was about to put on his equipment and head out to the Rexall Place ice for warmups for the Blackhawks’ matchup against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, but he was called aside.

“They pulled me into the office and let me know there,” Skille said.

Skille was told he was traded to the Florida Panthers, where he will be reunited with former Hawks general manager Dale Tallon. In return, the Hawks get forward Michael Frolik and goaltender Alexander Salak. The Hawks also sent prospects Hugh Jessiman and David Pacan to the Panthers.

Skille’s initial reaction?

“You know what, I’m sad to say goodbye to all those great guys in that locker room,” said Skille, who had seven goals and 17 points in 49 games. “That’s a moment I’ll probably never forget. It’s a great, tight-knit group of guys in Chicago. But I’m excited for the opportunity I’m going to be given.”

Skille’s chapter with the Hawks ends in disappointment. The seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft never panned out. He has elite speed, but just broke into the league this year after spending three years toiling away with the Rockford IceHogs.

Skille, 23, doesn’t see himself as a fourth-line winger, but that’s where he spent most of the season with center Jake Dowell and winger Viktor Stalberg. So he likely will get the opportunity he wanted in Florida.

“Obviously, I would have liked to have had a better opportunity,” said Skille, who had a feeling a trade was coming. “I think [the Hawks] knew that. They’ve given me a chance to go to Florida. . . . Obviously, Dale drafted me, and I know he believes in me as a player.

“I feel like I’m better than a fourth-line player, but that’s a role. Sometimes you’re given a role on a team, and you have got to play it. I’m not going to sit there and say I’m absolutely too good for anything. That’s not the case.

“In Chicago, it was more of a case of fitting in with that team. That was my role in Chicago. I personally don’t feel like I’m a fourth-line guy, but that was my role, and I had to be a team player. . . . Part of me sitting out of the lineup sometimes was because I was struggling at that role, and I wasn’t able to play consistent.”

The Hawks, though, have been searching for a top-six forward — and they hope they have found him in Frolik, who scored 21 goals in each of his first two seasons.

Hawks GM Stan Bowman said the team has been interested in Frolik, 22, since his draft year. Frolik, who has eight goals and 29 points in 52 games this season, was selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft.

In the last year of his entry-level deal, Frolik has struggled recently for the Panthers, dropping to the fourth line and scoring his last goal on Dec. 17. But he can play both wings and center.

“That’s what we’re intrigued by,” Bowman said. “He’s got that versatility. At this point, it’s premature to say exactly where he’s going to play. But having a guy that can play left wing, right wing or in the middle is another tool at [coach Joel Quenneville’s] disposal.”

Bowman called Salak an “interesting development.” He is a standout in the Swedish Elite League, but this trade is mainly about the Hawks adding and needing another scorer up front.

The trade comes with the Hawks out of the playoff picture and struggling to stay consistent. But Bowman, who said there may be more moves, downplayed the timing.

“The timing of it isn’t coinciding with anything other than we feel like we want to improve our team,” Bowman said. “This certainly does that. We’ve got a player in here who has a pretty good pedigree at a young age. . . . It’s just his third year in the league.’’

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