Dustin Byfuglien, one of the breakout players for the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks this spring, has been traded to the Atlanta Thrashers as part of a nine-player deal.
Byfuglien, along with D Brent Sopel, F Ben Eager and F Akim Aliu, are heading to Atlanta in exchange for the Thrashers' first round pick (24th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the 54th pick, and forwards Marty Reasoner, Jeremy Morin, and Joey Crabb.
To make the deal possible, Atlanta had to get under the NHL limit of 50 contracts. To do so, the Thrashers dealt forward Brett Sterling, defenceman Michael Vernace, and a 7th round 2010 draft pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for future considerations.
The first and second round draft picks that Chicago gets in the deal were acquired by Atlanta in the trade that sent Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils in February.
"I think what we saw in the playoffs is the Dustin Byfuglien that has been evolving for some time now. He's probably one of the premier power forwards in the league," Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley told the Canadian Press in a conference call early Thursday. "He's capable of 20 to 30 goals, at least, and playing a good two-way game."
Byfuglien, 25, had 17 goals and 17 assists in 82 games with Chicago in the regular season, and another 11 goals and five assists in the playoffs. He made a name for himself in the post-season with clutch performances, strong physical play, and five game-winning goals during the Blackhawks' run to the championship.
At 6'4" and 257 pounds, the Minnesota native will bring his thunderous size and strength to a struggling Thrashers franchise that has made the playoffs just once in its history.
Byfuglien was originally selected 245th overall by the Blackhawks in the eighth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.