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Blackhawks continue to trade away players as Andrew Ladd sent to Thrashers

CHICAGO - The salary purge and roster revamping of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks continued Thursday when they sent forward Andrew Ladd to the Atlanta Thrashers.

The move came a day after Chicago traded versatile forward Kris Versteeg to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last week, Chicago dealt playoff star Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to Atlanta and shipped Colin Fraser to Edmonton.

"We've had a strategy in place going back a long time knowing the salary cap is part of our game and it's going to cause us to have to make some moves," general manager Stan Bowman said Thursday.

"We've had a plan in place and been able to accomplish exactly what we set out to do from the very beginning. We've shown we can embrace change when necessary. In this case, it was necessary to make moves to make sure we are reloaded for the future."

For Ladd, who was a restricted free agent, the Blackhawks acquired defenceman Ivan Vishnevskiy and a second round pick in 2011.

The 24-year-old Ladd has played on two Stanley Cup winners in his young career. He came to the Blackhawks from Carolina in a 2008 trade for centre Tuomo Ruutu.

Ladd missed the first three games of the finals and then returned for the last three while playing with a fractured shoulder and torn ligaments against the Flyers. He was also on a Stanley Cup winner with Carolina in 2006.

Bowman said he talked with Ladd's agent but no deal could be reached.

"It became apparent that it wasn't the right mix in terms of salary and our situation here," Bowman said. "But I certainly wished him well. He was a big part of it and a great kid, but we had to do what we had to do going forward. .. We know what our situation was and we made the move that gives us the most flexibility both in the summer and as we go into next season."

Ladd had 37 goals and 62 assists in 184 regular-season games over parts of three seasons with the Blackhawks, including 17 goals and 21 assists last season.

In 36 playoff games for the Blackhawks over the past two seasons, he had six goals and four assists.

Vishnevskiy, 22, had two assists in five games with the Dallas Stars over the past two seasons. He spent most of last season in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars and Chicago Wolves. He was acquired by the Thrashers from the Stars last February.

Bowman said he'd talked briefly with the agent for pricey backup goalie Cristobal Huet, who just finished the second year of a US$22.45-million, four-year contract.

Huet was beaten out by first-year goalie Antti Niemi, who is a restricted free agent the Blackhawks plan on re-signing, as is young defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson.

Bowman said the Blackhawks could also be players in the free agent market. Their flurry of moves, he said, gives them a young surrounding cast of prospects for the team's core that includes Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, all of whom have-long term deals.

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