In the end, it was all about "the fit."
That term was used often Tuesday afternoon, as Blackhawks Johnny Oduya and Jamal Mayers addressed the media after agreeing to terms on new contract extensions.
“There wasn’t too much to think about really,” said defenseman Oduya, whose new three-year pact will keep him in Chicago through 2015. “I knew I wanted to come back. I felt that [Chicago] was a good place for me and I’m really happy about this chance.”
“What’s most important to me is knowing that I’ll be back in the city of Chicago and part of the Blackhawks family for another year,” said physical forward Mayers, who agreed to a one-year deal. “I’m excited to get [a deal] done early, and get focus on training and getting ready.”
In Oduya, Blackhawks VP/GM Stan Bowman believes he has a player who will complement the team on both ends of the ice. The puck-moving defenseman tallied five points (1G, 4A) to go with his +3 plus/minus rating in the 18 games after he came to Chicago from Winnipeg, then paced team blueliners with three assists in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“We brought Johnny in to solidify things down the stretch, and I think he played a big role in the turnaround of our team. It was pretty evident that his style of hockey complemented our style, and it made our players better,” Bowman said. “I had a good meeting with Johnny at the end of the year and he made it clear that he wanted to be in Chicago. He could have gone anywhere; the fact that he wanted to be back and he helped us made it a simple decision for us.”
Mayers says that he had personal, as well as professional reasons for his wanting to remain in Chicago. The 37-year-old forward, who led the team with 11 fighting majors and 91 penalty minutes to go with his six goals and nine assists, said that being able to stay put with his family was a major incentive to stay.
“I have a young family, and now we can sort out a lot of the logistical concerns that come up. Chicago has been great for us,” he said. “If you take a look back at the whole year, it was a good fit for me and the Hawks. When you look at the whole season and not just at the way things ended, I still come away with the belief that I have a lot to give and it’s a good fit. I’m excited for next year.”
With two members of this year’s team back in the fold, Bowman said that the next step this offseason is meeting with his staff and setting priorities for the draft, July’s free agent market and beyond, looking to find the next group of players to fit into the Blackhawks’ system. Whether that group comes from outside the organization or from within, however, is still to be decided.
“It’s the same we do each year; take a look at the players who are available in July, and there’s always some activity around the draft. I think you have to be open to trying to improve your team,” he said. “We’re not even at July yet; we’re going to look at making additional changes to our team. We’re always looking for players who are coming back to take steps forward… and grow their games, as well.”