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In thinking about the Chicago Blackhawks' need for cap relief, we didn't think it would come at the expense of hulking winger Dustin Byfuglien(notes).

But weeks after winning the Stanley Cup, Buff's a goner: Traded with defenseman Brent Sopel(notes), winger Ben Eager(notes) and prospect Akim Aliu(notes) to the Atlanta Thrashers for center Marty Reasoner(notes), left wing prospect Jeremy Morin (No. 45 overall in the 2009 Draft), right wing Joey Crabb(notes), the New Jersey Devils' first-round pick (No. 24 overall) and the Devils' second-round pick (No. 54 overall). Both picks were snagged in the Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) trade. (Bob McKenzie of TSN had the full trade via Twitter; more from LeBrun.)

The trade was made possible via the Thrashers' trade of Michael Vernace(notes) and Brett Sterling(notes), along with a seventh-round selection in 2010, to the San Jose Sharks for "future considerations"

Via Cap Geek, Byfuglien had one year left at $3 million before restricted free agency. Sopel had a year left at $2.33 before going UFA. Eager is an RFA. Reasoner makes $1.15 million and has a year before going UFA.

Before the trade, Cap Geek had the Blackhawks with $1,801,997 in space, still needing to find room for players like John Madden(notes), Adam Burish(notes), Niklas Hjalmarsson(notes), Jordan Hendryand and most notably goalie Antti Niemi(notes).

The three players that were talked about as being on the block for Chicago were Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg(notes) and Patrick Sharp(notes). The latter two both have two years remaining on their deals, but barring another dump it appears the Blackhawks' valued them more.

Byfuglien is a unique talent. He can look like Tomas Holmstrom(notes) with his playoff crease-crashing, but he can also go through stretches of ineffectiveness in the regular season. Chicago being a franchise with a dynastic aim, we figured his value in the postseason would keep him safe. Maybe the value of his next contract was more daunting.

Two thoughts on this trade. First, there's an obvious front office connection here: Rick Dudley, now the GM of the Thrashers, was the top assistant GM in Chicago for five years.  He was there when they drafted Akim Aliu, and oversaw the development of Byfuglien.

Second: With the trade of Brent Sopel, does the Chicago gay Pride Parade appearance of the Blackhawks become bittersweet or really awkward.

Your thoughts on this trade? It's a bit more than we figure Chicago would receive for what was a salary dump. (Update: Reader 'Rage' checks in: Is there a certain marketing aspect to this trade with Byfuglien, who is bi-racial and now the most marketable hockey name in Atlanta?) 

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