Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Byfuglien traded to Hotlanta pending trade call

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: June 23, 2010 - 6:05 PM

Big news going on in the NHL, but Roseau and Blackhawks playoff stud Dustin "Big Buff" Byfuglien has been dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers pending a trade call. The deal includes restricted free agent Ben Eager and veteran blue-liner Brent Sopel and Akim Aliu, the kid that beat the you know what out of former teammate Steve Downie once in junior.

Going to Chicago is a first-round pick from NJ (Kovalchuk, 24th overall), a second round pick from NJ, Marty Reasoner and prospect Jeremy Morin.

The trades services both teams. Atlanta gets a bona fide power forward, gritty checker and a veteran defenseman who was real important in the playoffs. Byfuglien is Dudley's kind of player. Big, physical and can skate.

Chicago resolves some of its salary-cap woes because the only contract it takes on is Reasoner's $1.15 million.

The trade call hasn't been conducted yet, but this is expected to go through.

Thrashers GM Rick Dudley was Chicago's assistant GM until last June, so he's very familiar with these players. And coincidentally, he's former WHA teammates with Buff's stepdad, Dale Smedsmo, in Cincy. In fact, what's very funny, is when I did that Byfuglien story in late May, I put the two of them back in touch because neither had the other's number.

Dudley said Smedsmo was the toughest guy he's ever played with.

Clearly, Chicago wanted to unload Byfuglien to an Eastern Conference team, and what's most interesting to me is the first-round pick traded in this trade and the Nathan Horton trade.

If this is the going rate for top players, that alone could take the Wild out of many things. GM Chuck Fletcher is only willing to trade the ninth pick if it's a 22-year-old, 23-year-old top player who can provide many years of high-end contribution, Fletcher said in a story I wrote last Friday.

Chicago's not trading Patrick Sharp now, and I just don't think Florida's going to trade Stephen Weiss. I just don't see why, and again, the only thing the Wild really has to offer for him is Brent Burns, and Florida just acquired offensive defenseman Dennis Wideman.

So where does this leave the Wild? We'll see.

Also, the salary-cap has been set for $59.4 million, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports. The floor is $43.4 million.

My first year covering the Wild (2005-06) or the first year of the salary cap, the ceiling was $39 million and the floor was $21.5 million, which the Wild was kissing. To put that in perspective, Burns, Schultz, Zidlicky, Barker and Backstrom have a combined $20.13 million cap hit. 

Things have changed, eh?

More soon

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