By Chris Emma–
(CBS) When defenseman Brian Campbell left the Blackhawks in the summer of 2011, he hardly could say goodbye.
In Chicago’s annual salary cap clearance, Campbell was dealt abruptly to Florida in an effort to salvage cap room. Now five years later, after his contract expired at the end of this past season, there was one destination that became a priority.
As NHL free agency opened Friday, the 37-year-old Campbell reportedly had big-money offers on the table, but he took a hometown discount to rejoin the Blackhawks at a one-year, $2-million deal. Consider that a steal for the Blackhawks, but Campbell got what he wanted.
“It’s where my heart is,” Campbell said of Chicago. “It’s where I wanted to play.”
During the Stanley Cup clincher in 2010, Campbell had the assist on Patrick Kane’s game-winning goal. He has remained close with many members of the Blackhawks who remain on the roster from their first of the three Stanley Cup titles in this era.
The Panthers were interested in re-signing Campbell, looking to outbid the Blackhawks for his services. The Stars made their best pitch too. In the end, Chicago was bound to win this battle. When the NHL’s free-agency period began Friday at 11 a.m., there was little time wasted in making the Blackhawks’ newest defenseman’s contract official.
A native of Canada, Campbell referred to Chicago as a hometown. He began raising a family there and wanted that to continue. He also wanted to chase another lift of the Stanley Cup.
“It’s obviously an honor, the fact that guys believe in what we’re trying to do in Chicago,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “We’re certainly excited about that.
“He’s a winner. He wants to win. He believes in our organization and our chance next year.”
Campbell has played in 1,002 games in 17 seasons across his NHL career. He began in Buffalo with the Sabres, spent a year in San Jose, then three seasons in Chicago before moving on to south Florida.
Last season, Campbell posted six goals and 25 assists. He was a plus-31 rating in a full 82-game season, which marks the best in his career. Campbell has played a full 82 contests in each of the last three seasons.
Campbell believes he hasn’t slowed down, even at the age of 37.
“I have a lot left in the tank,” he said. “I feel great.”
There were other opportunities available for Campbell. He could’ve gone to more money or a new opportunity. That was hardly even considered.
Chicago became home for Campbell. He couldn’t wait to sign and make the return official.
“The fact that it came together so quickly,” Bowman said, “it became apparent Brian wanted to be in Chicago.”