On Thursday night the Blackhawks acquired the winger and minor-leaguer Phillipe Lefebvre from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen. Not only that, but the Panthers are actually going to retain half of Versteeg's salary in the trade as well.
Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman was pretty pleased with his handywork. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
"We're really excited," said Hawks general manager Stan Bowman, who worked on the trade with his predecessor and current Panthers GM, Dale Tallon, for about a week. "Looking at our team this year, we're off to a really good start. We've come out of the gates the way we wanted to, but we're always trying to improve. And we felt adding one more versatile forward to our group -- Kris, we obviously know him well from his years here, his ability to play a couple different spots for us."
The Panthers hadn't been too shy that they were looking to move some of their veteran players and they weren't joking.
In this case it almost amounts to giving Versteeg away. Not only are they going to retain about $2.2 million in salary for the remainder of this season as well as the final two years of his deal, but they aren't getting a ton in return for a guy who has been a top-six forward for them either. Hayes and Olsen are two players who have had a tough time getting out of the AHL but then again this is Chicago's lineup we're talking about.
Of course the money isn't too much of an issue for the Panthers; they have to pay it anyway to stay above the cap floor and it's not like they are in danger of running out of space. But still, it's odd how much the Panthers are giving in this trade. It does give them even more cap space for the summer though if they choose to use it with a new owner and perhaps it will allow for one of their prospects to get more playing time. Either way, Tallon had his marching orders to make something happen so he called up his old friends in Chicago and indeed made something happen.
It's not like Versteeg's stock was at an all-time high, though. He has had a rough go of it since a strong first season in Florida. He had 23 goals and 31 assists in his first season with the Panthers, helping them to reach the playoffs. It was enough to give Versteeg a new contract for four years and $17.6 million.
In the two seasons since he has just four goals and seven assists in 28 games. Earlier this season he was a scratch for the Panthers. He had surgery in the offseason but he has still been slow to come back to full form. Perhaps returning to Chicago will help.
Versteeg spent three seasons in Chicago, scoring 22 goals in 2008-09 and 20 in 2009-10. Perhaps his time in Chicago is most memorable, though, for his Stanley Cup rap.
Now Versteeg goes back to Chicago and will likely go back to being on their third line. If he starts to rebound into form (and he should with a shooting percentage well below his career average at this point), the Hawks just added another player to give them that great depth they have been blessed with in recent years.