CHICAGO – Sheldon Brookbank hoped that the Blackhawks would be interested in him when the NHL’s free-agent signing period started Sunday.
It didn’t take long for the veteran defenseman’s hopes to become reality.
“Things kind of happened quick here,” Brookbank said with a chuckle.
The Hawks signed Brookbank, 31, to a two-year deal in their first move of the new league year. Brookbank reportedly will earn $2.5 million overall, which leaves the Hawks with more than $6 million remaining to continue to bolster their roster through free agency or trades.
One possibility is longtime New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, a surefire Hall of Famer who is an unrestricted free agent. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported Sunday that the Hawks had reached out to the 40-year-old Brodeur, whose 656 wins are 105 more than anyone else in NHL history.
Regardless of what happens with Brodeur, the Hawks believe that they have improved their defense with the signing of Brookbank (6-1, 202 pounds).
In 80 games with the Anaheim Ducks last season, Brookbank had 14 points (3 G, 14 A), 72 penalty minutes and a team-high rating of plus-11. He has 36 points (4 G, 32 A) and 400 penalty minutes in 277 career games.
“I’m just kind of a steady defenseman,” Brookbank said. “You know what you’re getting out of me. [It’s] not anything really too flashy.
“I pride myself on just making a good first pass and trying to play hard and stick up for my teammates.”
Brookbank joins a group of defensemen including Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, Nick Leddy, Dylan Olsen and Steve Montador. He said he expected to play on the third defensive pairing, although competition could be tough for consistent playing time unless the Hawks deal someone from the group.
“They have a lot of ‘D’ here,” Brookbank said. “I was told I’d be in the five [or] six range, somewhere in there.
“We’ll see how it goes. I hope to play every day is what I would like to do, but it’s obviously up to the coaching staff and performance.”
The Hawks’ performance on defense has been lacking since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. They allowed 2.82 goals a game last season, which was No. 22 in the NHL, and their penalty-killing units finished No. 27.
Brookbank said he was eager to help on the penalty kill, where he contributed last season for the Ducks. He also hoped to return to the playoffs, where he has 32 penalty minutes in 17 postseason contests.
Basically, Brookbank said, he was willing to do anything to fit in with his new team.
“The city of Chicago itself is one of the top cities I’ve ever been to in my life, so that already was held up pretty high in my mind,” Brookbank said. “But just the organization itself, and the buzz in the city and everything like that [was great].
“You can just see it with the fans. You can feel it when you come into the United Center. It looks like they really have a true passion for hockey, and they have an exciting team there, so I’m just happy to become a part of this.”