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Daley, Garbutt eager to help Blackhawks defend Cup

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Once the initial shock of being traded by the Dallas Stars wore off, defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt had similar feelings about joining the Chicago Blackhawks.

Traded to Chicago for forward Patrick Sharp and defense prospect Stephen Johns on July 10, Daley and Garbutt are sad about leaving Dallas but excited for the future. They're now teammates on the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and each seems eager to help the Blackhawks defend the title.

"I love Dallas," Daley said Monday. "I loved the organization, but I've learned over the years that, as teammates come and go, you know, friendships last forever. I've made some great friendships there, and those will never end. My days as a Dallas Star obviously ended, but I'll move on. And if you came to ask me if I was to go somewhere to play, going to the best team in hockey, actually, is not a bad thing."

Just ask the Blackhawks.

Championships also have a long shelf life, and the core group in Chicago has won three in the past six seasons. Daley and Garbutt, who have played against the Blackhawks quite a bit in the Central Division, want their turn to play for a championship in the Windy City.

If that means each has to accept a role that brings less statistical success, or perhaps less ice time, so be it.

"Any time you change teams, you're always thinking about where you're going to fit in when you come in," Garbutt said. "But coming into a team like the Blackhawks, with the pedigree they have, you just want to do whatever you can to fit in and pretty much just play whatever role they want you to play."

Garbutt's role with the Blackhawks is a bit less defined than Daley's. He'll need to earn a regular spot in the lineup during a training-camp competition that will feature a number of players who play a similar style.

Garbutt, 29, has extra motivation after seeing his offensive production dip from 17 goals in 2013-14 to eight last season.

"I don't think the role changed [for me]," Garbutt said. "I had a little bit of a drop-off, which is obviously something you don't want, but I've been training hard this summer to try to make sure I come back next year like I did two years ago. I have confidence in myself to be able to do that. I'm definitely going to want to step my game up next year, but I also see that I'm going to be playing with great players and have an awesome opportunity to play with the best team in the League, and I'm pretty excited to do that."

Daley, 31, is just as exuberant to be part of Chicago's top-four defense group.

The other three are Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, who Daley thinks is the NHL's best defenseman. Johnny Oduya is who's missing from that group, which played close to 90 percent of the minutes for Blackhawks defensemen in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

Unless Chicago clears enough space under the NHL's $71.4 million salary cap, it looks like Daley will replace Oduya, an unrestricted free agent, at left point on the second pairing, likely playing with Hjalmarsson or Seabrook.

Last season, Daley set career highs in goals (16), assists (22), points (38) and shooting percentage (14.2 percent) in 68 games, but he also had a career-low rating (minus-13). Daley attributed his offensive uptick to the arrival of Stars coach Lindy Ruff two seasons ago, saying defensemen were given more freedom in the offensive zone.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wants defensemen to move the puck up the ice and join the rush at times, but not at the cost of leaving the defensive zone vulnerable. It doesn't sound like Daley will have an issue adjusting.

"I'm coming into a team that just won a Stanley Cup," said Daley, who has played all 11 seasons of his NHL career with the Stars. "I'm coming in looking just to fit in, follow their lead and listen and learn, because I want to win one with them. I'm willing to do whatever I'm supposed to do."

Daley, whose elite skating was attractive to Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, had surgery on his hip after last season. Recovery time isn't an issue because the Stars didn't qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so Daley is looking forward to making a good first impression on the first day of training camp.

"I'm excited for the opportunity," he said. "I get to go play for the best team in hockey and get to go watch some future Hall of Famers play hockey … and play with them on the same team. I'm looking forward to the opportunity [and] to the challenge, and I'm just going to try to take advantage of it and run with it."

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