Looks like the Hawks are pretty much done when it comes to free agent activity for now. But what a first day of free agency it was for this organization, and for Dale Tallon as the GM.
Rene Bourque was a minor move early in the day but I thought it was definitely a positive to get him out of Chicago, he simply wouldn't reach his potential with the Hawks and was taking a roster spot from any number of young players in the farm system that could produce more than him if given the chance. Good luck to him in Calgary, maybe he can figure it out there.
I was very surprised when just before 3 PM it was reported that the Hawks signed Cristobal Huet to a 4 year, $22.5 million deal. My first thought was, "what do we need a goalie for"? Then, I realized that it is likely we are going to see Nikolai Khabibulin dealt elsewhere soon. I thought it was going to happen immediately this afternoon, but it looks like we may have to wait for that. Tallon did say he thinks this is going to be a good "goaltending tandem", but I don't buy that. I can't see him hanging on to Khabby, he will likely be dealt fairly soon, perhaps to the Kings, who were rumored to be close to a deal to get him earlier in the day.
As for Huet, the contract may be a little long but I think I would rather have him than Khabibulin at this point. He is coming a little cheaper, younger, and it can be argued that he is better as well. Huet went 32-14-6 with a 2.32 GAA and a .920 SV% last year between Washington and Montreal, compared to Khabibulin's 2.66 GAA and .909 SV%. Career wise, Huet's 2.43 GAA and .918 SV% also beats Khabibulin (2.69 GAA and .908 SV%). Overall, I think the Hawks improved in goal today.
And of course we have the big ticket signing of defenseman Brian Campbell for 8 years, and he will be making $7.14 million per year according to Sportsnet. I was very shocked to see this happen. When it was reported that Campbell would be looking for a contract this big, I figured the Hawks were out of the running. However, they matched Atlanta's offer at one point, and Campbell decided to choose the Hawks. Usually the Hawks don't make a big splash like this in free agency, but today they finally got it done.
Some may say the contract is too big for Campbell, and they may be right about that. The Hawks had to overpay a little to get him, but that's not something they could really control, it's just that type of market for free agents in the NHL, especially for the most sought-after player. I would say he's worth the big bucks, for what he will bring to the table.
He's a mobile, offensive-minded defenseman who is going to quarterback the power play here and will help improve that aspect quite a bit. There are concerns about his play in the defensive zone, but I think he will produce enough to make up for whatever deficiencies he might have defensively. When he was traded to San Jose at the trade deadline this past season, he seriously stepped his game up, producing 19 points in 20 games for the Sharks, helping them get to the playoffs, where he also produced, getting 7 points in 13 post-season contests.
It'll be interesting to see what the defensive pairings will be this season. I'm thinking Campbell will be on the top pairing with Brent Seabrook, and we'll likely see Duncan Keith playing with someone like Brent Sopel, or perhaps Cam Barker. Either way, the blue-line looks better for the Hawks today.
Gotta give props to Dale Tallon who got the job done today, now he just needs to deal Khabibulin to pave the way for Huet and we are looking set. I'd expect that to happen within the next couple of weeks, at least.
Today's subtractions, besides Bourque, include Patrick Lalime, who signed a 2 year deal with Buffalo, and David Koci, who signed a one year deal with Tampa Bay. I won't miss either of them too much.
By the way, if you wanna see Brian Campbell absolutely obliterate someone, check this out: