Johnny Oduya Gives Blackhawks ‘Full Complement Of Experience, Depth’ On Blue Line

(CBS) There was no doubt that defenseman Johnny Oduya’s previous stint in Chicago was a factor in the Blackhawks reacquiring him in a trade with the Stars on Tuesday evening, but general manager Stan Bowman had a bigger point to emphasize Wednesday.

Oduya can still play at a high level, and that’s going to aid the Blackhawks’ championship push.

“Knowing that our coaches appreciate what they can do and I think chemistry wise, there’s never a problem from that perspective,” Bowman said. “These guys, we know them really well when you have a guy for a couple years. So from that perspective, it’s a benefit. But that’s not the only reason you’d bring a player back. You have to like what they can do on the ice. In Johnny’s case, he’s still playing at a high level. He’s always had an incredible fitness level. He takes care of himself. He trains very, very hard. So that was the one thing we thought of. As guys get older, sometimes they aren’t able to play at the speed or the pace of the game, but that’s not the case for Johnny. He’s playing just as well now as he did a couple years ago. He brings a lot to the table experience.

The 35-year-old Oduya was reacquired in exchange for 24-year-old forward Mark McNeill and a conditional 2018 fourth-round pick heading back to the Stars. An 11-year veteran, Oduya was a key member of Chicago’s championship teams in 2013 and 2015.

Now, he’ll once again pair with Niklas Hjalmarsson on the blue line, and Bowman knows he can take on a big role.

“The one element he might help us on the most is on the penalty kill,” Bowman said.

“It can be problematic sometimes when one of your top defensemen takes a penalty, and then you’re looking for guys you have that confidence in. So Johnny’s really strong in that area. He can match up.”

The Blackhawks weren’t close on any other deals ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s trade deadline, Bowman said. Chicago is second in the Western Conference heading into an evening matchup against Pittsburgh at the United Center.

“I said that all along: I really like the team we have here, even before we were able to add Johnny to the mix,” Bowman said. “Certainly, when we have him now, it gives our team that full complement of experience, depth. Especially on the defensive side, you can never have too many defensemen.”

The Blackhawks did make a minor-league trade Wednesday, acquiring 22-year-old forward Kenton Helgesen and a 2019 seventh-round pick from the Ducks for 28-year-old forward Spencer Abbott and 25-year-old forward Sam Carrick. Helgesen has been playing in the ECHL, recording 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 38 games this season. Abbott has been at AHL Rockford, where he leads the Icehogs with 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists). Carrick is also with the Icehogs, scoring 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists).

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