With the NHL trade deadline looming on Monday, and with the Thrashers falling steadily out of playoff contention in yet another disappointing February, general manager Rick Dudley figured he might as well get what he could for Brent Sopel and Nigel Dawes.
Dawes was signed this summer coming off of a fairly successful season with the Calgary Flames. Dawes had 14 goals and 18 assists in 66 games with Calgary last season, but thus far in just nine games played for the Thrashers, he has managed an assist and is a -6. Where Dawes has been contributing is the AHL, getting 44 points (27 goals, 17 assists) in 47 games for the Chicago Wolves.
Brent Sopel came over in the deal with Chicago this past summer that brought teammates Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Eager to Atlanta along with Sopel. Byfuglien is the last one remaining from that deal, as Eager was traded to the San Jose Sharks shortly after his four-game suspension for sucker-punching Colby Armstrong was over. Thankfully Buff signed a five year extension, because as it stands the Thrashers gave up Marty Reasoner, Jeremy Morin, and some draft picks for Buff and Akim Aliu, who can’t seem to stay in the AHL.
Sopel, in 59 games played this season, had two goals and seven assists for the Thrashers. Where he was an asset is in shot-blocking, which is a statistic he led the team in. The past few games, however, he’s looked gassed and hasn’t been helped any by Johnny Oduya’s exasperating play. Sopel was a +7 for the team, though, despite playing with Oduya… or because he was paired with Ron Hainsey.
The trade with Boston for Mark Stuart made one of our defensemen expendable, and considering that Sopel is a UFA at the end of this season, and the Thrashers ran the risk of losing him for nothing, getting an AHL player like Ben Maxwell back in return isn’t bad – and a fourth rounder for Nigel Dawes is okay as well.
Sopel didn’t seem too crushed, tweeting shortly after the trade was announced:
Off to Montreal – let the games begin!!
And then this a few hours later:
Looking forward to getting to Montreal to start the running for another Stanley Cup.
Best of luck to Sopes, but I don’t see that challenge getting as far as it did last season. But then again, with the playoffs, who knows? Fans’ll get a chance to say hi to Sopel on Tuesday when the Habs come to town to play the Thrashers.
Ben Maxwell will serve as AHL depth (or a NHL call-up, if the need arises). The 6-1, 195 lb. center is second on the Hamilton Bulldogs with 40 points in 47 games (11 goals, 29 assists).