Daily Herald
Tallon says trade filled needs
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 12/20/2007 12:10 AM

Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon had his reasons for trading defenseman Jim Vandermeer to Philadelphia.

"We wanted to make room for (Cam) Barker and (Dustin) Byfuglien, and maybe (Niklas) Hjalmarsson," Tallon said.

Byfuglien was moved back to defense from forward for Wednesday night's game against Nashville, and Barker was recalled from Rockford shortly after the Hawks' 5-2 victory.

"Barker is close to being ready," Tallon said.

In addition to recalling Barker, the Hawks placed defenseman Magnus Johansson on waivers. Should Johansson clear, he would be assigned to Rockford unless he elected to return to Sweden.

Johansson was minus-5 with 4 assists in 17 games.

The Hawks got gritty fourth-line winger Ben Eager from the Flyers in exchange for Vandermeer.

"We needed a left winger who could skate and create some havoc," said Tallon, who envisions a future fourth line of Eager, Adam Burish and Jake Dowell.

Vandermeer was dealt because somewhere along the way the defenseman lost the physical edge the Hawks needed him to have.

Some within the organization believe Vandermeer never was the same as a physical presence after his fight with Ryan Flinn, formerly of the Kings, on Nov. 26, 2005, at Staples Center.

Flinn his hit head on the ice after he was knocked down by a Vandermeer punch. Flinn needed to be hospitalized but recovered and now is playing for Springfield in the American Hockey League.

Vandermeer's contract status played an equally important role in the trade. He will be an unrestricted free agent come July.

"Him becoming a free agent this summer, I think Dale felt it would be tough to re-sign him," coach Denis Savard said.

That's the nice way of saying the Hawks had no intention of re-signing Vandermeer, who likely will be looking to double his present salary of $1.2 million on the open market.

Eager is a good skater who likes to be the first one in on the forecheck.

"I think Ben is a gritty kid that fits our puzzle, he's 23 years old and that fits the age of our young guys that we have here," Savard said. "You've got to have that grit on the third and fourth line. (David) Koci has done a good job and I'm not saying he won't be back in there, but Ben is a better skater for now."

Eager was looking forward to getting a better opportunity to play more with the Hawks than he did in Philadelphia.

"I think I probably could have got a better chance there, but it looks to be a great opportunity here," he said.

Change it up: Not only was Dustin Byfuglien back to defense against Nashville, Martin Havlat was moved from right wing to left wing, where Byfuglien had been playing on the first line.

Havlat prefers to play right wing, and he will go back there eventually. Petri Kontiola played right wing on the top line.

Savard also moved Havlat to the point on the struggling power play.

Double nickles: Ben Eager took uniform No. 55, becoming the first Hawk to wear it since Eric Daze.