The Hawks made the biggest splash on the free agent market Tuesday when they signed two-time All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell to an eight-year, $56.8 million contract and also obtained the top available goaltender in Cristobal Huet, who received a four-year, $22.4 million deal.
These were the top-rated defenseman and goaltender available in free agency; this is the top story at nhl.com today.
Longtime Blackhawks fans are stunned, and ecstatic, because this is the latest message from the new ownership that they want to bring championships home for the fans.
Of course, eight years seems an awfully long contract for a 29 year old like Campbell, but maybe that’s what it took in order to get him here. He brings excellent skating, lots of ice time, and passing ability:
“He has ability to move the puck and to skate up ice to get you out of trouble combined with his ability to play lots of minutes—half of the game most of the time,” Tallon said of Campbell, who led the league in ice time at 29 minutes 19 seconds per game. “It gives us more foot speed, more creativity [and] more ability to move the puck out of our own end. He has the ability to pass and see the ice. [He can] go from defense to offense in a split second.”
Campbell was courted by many teams and chose the Hawks because of his desire to move closer to his family in Strathroy, Ontario, and because he likes the direction the club his heading.
Not sure where Strathroy, Ontario is, but apparently it’s, like, a Chicago suburb or something. In Ontario.
The Hawks are hoping Campbell can help improve the power play, too, which has been pretty useless the last few years.
As for the signing of goalie Cristobal Huet, this seems a clear message to No. 1 goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who is a free agent after the upcoming season, that his perch is tenuous. The Blackhawks already have a young goalie they played a few times last year, Corey Crawford, that was very impressive, and he appears ready for at least backup duty already. So now they have 3 very capable goalies, which protects them from injury, inconsistent play, and pending free agency next off-season. As Tallon says:
“The No. 1 goaltender in this market was Huet and we made a decision … that it’s important to make sure we’re really good in the net,” said Tallon, whose current plan is to keep both goalies. “That goaltending tandem is as good as there is. Without strong goaltending you have no chance.”
The 32-year-old Huet appeared in 52 games last season playing for Montreal and Washington. He posted a record of 32-14-6 with a .920 save percentage and four shutouts.
So, the bottom line? The Hawks and their fans now have good reason to expect improvements in their defense, power play, and goaltending, all things that a championship team needs.