UFA of the Day: Johnny Oduya

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Check PHT every day until June 30 for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Johnny Oduya

One of the four workhorse defensemen for the Blackhawks, Oduya was a huge part of Chicago’s 2015 Stanley Cup run. The 33-year-old was on the ice more than Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and every other ‘Hawk forward. Besides goalie Corey Crawford, only Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson played more than Oduya did.

But Oduya also understands the situation. The Blackhawks are facing a cap crunch. There will be changes to the roster.

“We know the reality,” he said just before the finals. “This is what it is.”

It’s certainly not out of the question that GM Stan Bowman will try to shed salary in an attempt to re-sign Oduya. After all, we saw this past season how the loss of a top-four defenseman can impact a good team. The Bruins badly missed Johnny Boychuk. Ditto for the Kings with Slava Voynov.

And while it’s true the Blackhawks have some good, young defensemen in the organization, is there one they feel comfortable slotting into a top-four role? Currently, only Keith, Seabrook, and Hjalmarsson are under contract for next season.

Perhaps Mike Reilly’s decision will impact what the Blackhawks do with Oduya. Reilly, like Oduya, shoots left. But again, Reilly has never played in the NHL. Stephen Johns and Ville Pokka haven’t either. Trevor van Riemsdyk is still inexperienced.

To be sure, if the Blackhawks decide they can’t keep Oduya, there will be interest from other teams. The Colorado Avalanche, to name just one potential suitor, are looking for a left-shot D.

“It’s just one of those things where you really don’t know the answers, you don’t know the outcomes,” said Oduya.

But we’ll know soon.

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