CHICAGO (MCT) — The Blackhawks’ first significant roster moves of the summer involved dealing but little in the way of wheeling, which is what happens when all parties decide that things are generally just fine the way they are.
So defenseman Johnny Oduya eschewed free agency for a three-year deal and forward Jamal Mayers re-upped for one year in pacts officially announced Tuesday, basically because both veterans believed there was no place like their current home and the Hawks agreed.
It doesn’t preclude further action from general manager Stan Bowman in the summer trade and free agency markets, as Bowman reiterated that the Hawks are “not going to have the identical team we had last year.” But it preempts a couple of questions down the line.
“I had a good feeling the whole time,” said Oduya, 31, who was a trade deadline acquisition Feb. 27. “Shorter or longer (on the contract) didn’t really make a big difference. I knew I wanted to come back. Even if it wasn’t clear on paper, we felt kind of the same thing. I’m just happy it worked out.”
Bowman labeled Oduya one of the team’s “top priorities” in the offseason after three assists in six games in the first-round postseason ouster against the Coyotes followed a plus-3 rating in 18 games after being acquired from the Jets.
Oduya’s deal averages $3.375 million per year, according to TSN, which represents a slight cut from the $3.5 million he made a year ago.
“We brought Johnny in to try to solidify things down the stretch and he played a big role in the turnaround of our team,” Bowman said. “It was pretty evident his style of hockey complemented our style.
“He could have gone anywhere. The fact he wanted to be back, and he also helped us, and accentuated the things we had here, made it a simple decision for us.”
Likewise, the 37-year-old Mayers absorbed a benching in that Coyotes series but decided the fit was too good with the Hawks regardless. He registered six goals, nine assists and a team-high 91 penalty minutes in 81 regular-season games and should continue to fortify the fourth line with a physical presence.
“It’s tough as a competitor, but 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,” Mayers said of being a healthy scratch in Games 3 through 6 versus the Coyotes. “You look at the whole season and try not to look at the way things ended.”
Bowman cast a fairly conservative outlook for the rest of the offseason Tuesday, though. He said he expects improvement from within on the team’s high-priced defense corps. He said the team is “optimistic” Marian Hossa and Steve Montador will recover from concussions to be ready to play in September.
There are holes to fill, but it seems the Hawks remain looking forward by looking inward first.
“You have to be open to trying to improve your team,” Bowman said, “but we approached it like we have in the past: We’ll come up with some players we want to target, we’ll also talk about some things leading into the draft that may materialize, and we’ll kind of take it from there.”
©2012 the Chicago Tribune
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