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Associated Press, Published June 23 2010

NHL: Blackhawks trade Byfuglien

ATLANTA – The Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks were the Thrashers awaiting NHL approval Wednesday on a multiplayer blockbuster trade that would send Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager from Chicago to Atlanta, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade had not received final approval from the league.

Chicago also would send a prospect to Atlanta and acquire first- and second-round picks in this week’s NHL draft as well as forward Marty Reasoner and prospect Jeremy Morin.

The trade clears salary cap space for the Blackhawks and provides more experience for the Thrashers.

As the teams awaited league approval, players involved in the deal also were left on hold.

Sopel addressed the trade on his Twitter account. He tweeted “Thank You Everyone for the Amazing Well Wishes, but this is all just Rumor and has not been Confirmed yet. But regardless I LOVE U CHICAGO!”

Byfuglien can become a restricted free agent after the 2010-11 season.

Led by young stars such as former University of North Dakota standout Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks beat Philadelphia for their first Stanley Cup title since 1961, but they were hardly a two-man show.

With one of the deepest rosters in the league, they set franchise records for wins (52) and points (112) in the regular season while finishing second to San Jose in the Western Conference. In the playoffs, they went through Nashville, Vancouver and San Jose before beating the Flyers, but with major salary-cap issues, changes were expected.

Kane and Toews signed lucrative contract extensions with the Blackhawks in December – five-year deals worth $31.5 million each.

Marian Hossa (12 years, $62.8 million deal) and Duncan Keith (13 years, $72 million deal), who signed the same day as Kane and Toews have large long-term contracts. Defenseman Brian Campbell just completed the second year of an eight-year, $56.8 million contract. Goalie Cristobal Huet, who became a pricey backup, has two years left on four-year, $22.45 million deal.

Antti Niemi is a restricted free agent who is due a raise.

Someone had to go, and on Wednesday, Byfuglien, Sopel and Eager appeared to be the ones.

Byfuglien, 25, scored three game-winning goals during a sweep of San Jose in the Western Conference finals that put Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1992. He also had a hat trick in a victory over the Canucks in the conference semifinals.

Against the Flyers, the

6-foot-4, 257-pound Byfuglien struggled at times against defenseman Chris Pronger but scored three goals over the final two games.

He had 11 goals overall during the playoffs after finishing with 17 during the regular season. He has three straight seasons with more than 30 points.

Sopel, 33, had a goal and five assists in the playoffs but had only one goal in each of the last two regular seasons. Eager, 26, had a goal and two assists in the playoffs after having 16 points in the regular season.

Reasoner, 33, had four goals and 13 assists in his second season in Atlanta.

AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.