Blackhawks

He’s back: Blackhawks sign Brian Campbell

He’s back: Blackhawks sign Brian Campbell

For Brian Campbell, it was pretty simple.

He wanted to come back to Chicago. He makes his offseason home here, wants to continue to raise his young family here and is incredibly familiar with the team here. All it was going to take was a decent, not decadent, salary.

Campbell got that, and now he’s back to try and win another Stanley Cup.

Campbell signed a one-year deal worth a reported $2 million with the Blackhawks not long after the NHL free agency window opened on Friday. For Campbell, the chance to come back to Chicago was too tempting and worth turning down other, more lucrative offers.

“It’s where my heart is, where I want to play,” said Campbell via conference call. “The last time when I was a free agent, money played a factor. This time it was about what was best for me and my family. I have two young daughters; one is going into preschool. I’ve been welcomed into the neighborhood I live in. It’s just where I wanted to be, where my heart was. It just makes our life perfect. We’re ecstatic about being here.”

It’s a good, affordable deal, just like the one the Blackhawks signed Brad Richards to entering the 2014-15 season. Unlike with Richards, there shouldn’t be much adjustment time for Campbell. While the Blackhawks’ roster has changed plenty since Campbell was traded, the core is still fairly intact.

General manager Stan Bowman said at the draft last weekend that he wouldn’t rule out getting a veteran defenseman. Now he has Campbell back in the fold and it didn’t take long to convince him to return.

“The fact it came together so quickly, seemed it was a place Brian wanted to be,” Bowman said. “No question that Brian had a tremendous season this past year and several good years, leading up to this year. I’m sure he had other opportunities. Speaks to what person Brian is. He’s a winner. He believes in our organization and our chances last year. Nice to know he wants to be part of what we’re doing in Chicago. Familiarity with the coach and some players here. We’re excited he chose Chicago.”

Campbell’s return helps a defense that missed Johnny Oduya last season. Whether or not he plays as big a role as he did in Florida, or even in his first stint with Chicago, remains to be seen but Campbell believes he can still be a top-minute guy. His durability has been proven; the 37-year-old Campbell has played in every regular-season game with the Florida Panthers since he joined them in the 2011-12 season.

“I have a lot left in the tank,” Campbell said. “There are no egos here for me. It’s doing what’s best to win. I know how old I am but I definitely don’t feel that old. I led the Panthers in minutes last season but I’m definitely fine with less minutes as well. Whatever they want I’m more than happy to contribute.”

With the Campbell deal done the Blackhawks have around $3.2 million in cap space, per generalfanager.com. The Blackhawks may not do a whole lot else regarding free agency. Bowman said the Blackhawks could get a “role-type player,” but getting Campbell was their top priority.

The Blackhawks needed to bolster their defense. Campbell wanted to come “home.” It worked out. Now to see if Campbell is once again the defenseman the Blackhawks need.

“I call Chicago home. My wife grew up here and we’re excited to raise our two daughters here,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t be happier to play for my hometown team now.”

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."