Blackhawks Clear Cap Space, Add Skill

The Chicago Blackhawks were active during the first round of the NHL Draft, acquiring a first round pick from Washington and dealing Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers.

Campbell agreed to waive his no-trade clause as he was sent to the Florida Panthers for forward Rostislav Olesz.

Campbell still has five years left on his deal with a cap hit of about $7.1 million per season.  The move opens up about four million dollars in cap space which the Blackhawks could use to sign restricted free agents like Chris Campoli and Michael Frolik, or lock up Patrick Sharp to a long-term deal.

Campbell is coming off of an injury-shortened season where he played only 65 games, but had 27 points and tied a career-high with a plus/minus of plus-28.

Olesz who also missed time to injury, skated in 44 games where he scored six goals and totaled 17 points.  Olesz has 349 NHL games under his belt and has racked up 132 career points.

The Blackhawks also dealt restricted free agent Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for the 26th pick in the first round.

Brouwer led the Blackhawks and finished fifth in the NHL in hits with 252. He will give the Capitals a physical bottom six forward who can also contribute in front of the net at even strength and on the power play.

With their first of two first round picks, the Blackhawks selected Mark McNeill from the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League 18th overall.

The 6-2, 210 pound power forward scored 32 goals and finished with 81 points in 70 games.  He added five points as the Raiders fell to the Saskatoon Blades in the opening round of the WHL playoffs.  McNeill also skated for Team Canada this year in the World U-18 Championships in Germany.  He had four assists in seven games as Canada finished in fourth.

“One thing I like about him is that he’s a right-handed center, which is good to have,” said NHL Central Scouting’s Blair MacDonald on McNeill.

“He’s really composed and has a real pro-style game. He has a nice touch, can dish, and has nice, soft passes. His on-ice awareness is very good and he’s paid attention to detail at both ends of the rink.  He has good defensive-zone coverage as well as being offensive at the other end. All around I think he’s got a real solid game I think his offensive game will improve the older he gets and the more confident he gets.”

McNeill has the body type to step into the NHL right now, but with the Blackhawks depth at center already in the system, it could be a year or two before he throws on the Indian head.  But with the way the Chicago roster stacks up against the salary cap, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see McNeill on the team this year if he has a great training camp.

“He is very coachable,” Prince Albert Raiders coach Bruno Campese said of McNeill. “We’ve had lots of one-on-one discussions this year.  He’s extremely appreciative of any kind of coaching. He’s a smart individual who really gets it.”

The Blackhawks selected Phillip Danault from Victoriaville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with their second pick in the first round, 26th overall.

Danault is a 6-foot, 170-pound left winger who recorded 23 goals and 44 assists in 64 games as Victoriaville’s captain.  He represented Team Canada at the 2010 U-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament and Team Quebec at the 2010 World U-17 Challenge.

“The thing about Danault is he’s a tremendous worker,” said Victoriaville coach Yanick Jean.

“He’s dedicated to the game, but now he’s taking more and more leadership and it’s contagious. He has the admiration of every single one of his teammates just on how hard he works. He’ll bring work ethic, dedication and leadership. His passion for the game is unique because he’s the most passionate kid I’ve ever coached.”

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