(CBS) Another key member of the Blackhawks’ recent championship success is leaving town.
Free agent defenseman Johnny Oduya won’t re-sign with the Blackhawks, agent Don Meehan confirmed to 670 The Score on Tuesday afternoon. That brings his three-plus-year run in Chicago that included two Stanley Cups to an end. Oduya reportedly has drawn serious interest from the Sabres, Stars and Bruins, among others, though he hadn’t decided on his new destination yet as of Tuesday mid-afternoon. Oduya is expected to sign somewhere soon, Meehan said.
The Blackhawks had to let Oduya walk because they’re facing a salary cap crunch, needing to trim around another $400,000 or so get under the hard $71.4 million figure prior to the start of the 2015-’16 regular season, according to war-on-ice.com. Oduya had previously been playing on a three-year, $10.1-million contract and despite being out of his prime, he was expected to be out of Chicago’s price range.
Oduya, 33, had been patient during his free agency. It was no secret that he wanted to return to the Blackhawks, who to date haven’t found any takers on the trade market for winger Bryan Bickell, who carries a $4.0 million cap hit next season. Unloading Bickell was Chicago’s best way to have a chance to keep Oduya, but it didn’t happen in time.
Oduya has been a reliable top-four defenseman for the Blackhawks for the past three years, playing in 201 of a possible 212 regular-season games in that stretch. Oduya had two goals, eight assists and a plus-5 +/- rating in 76 games last season.
The Blackhawks originally acquired Oduya in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets in February 2012.
Chicago’s addition of defenseman Trevor Daley — who like Oduya is a lefty shooter — in a four-player deal with Dallas last Friday will help fill the void left by Oduya leaving. The Blackhawks still boast a talented core of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson on their blue line, as well as youngsters Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Rundblad.
Oduya becomes the sixth Blackhawks player who skated in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup clincher against the Lightning in June to be leaving town. He joins Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards and Kimmo Timonen in that regard. Saad and Sharp were traded because of the salary cap crunch, while Vermette and Richards left in free agency. Timonen retired.
ESPN’s Scott Powers first reported the news that Oduya wouldn’t be returning to Chicago.