The clock was ticking for the Chicago Blackhawks and general manager Stan Bowman to try and sign Steve Montador to a contract before the defenseman became an unrestricted free agent and in the end, beat the deadline.
The Hawks signed Montador to a four-year contract Thursday. The $11 million deal came fewer than 24 hours before the veteran would have become a free agent. Montador's rights were acquired late Wednesday night from the Buffalo Sabres for a seventh-round draft pick in either the 2012 or 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
"It's very exciting for me,” Montador, 31, said. “Over the past few weeks I was talking to my agent and getting prepared for July 1st (and) looking at the things I wanted out of a team and having put myself in an opportunity in my career to hopefully have a number of opportunities to choose from, the No. 1 thing I was looking for was a chance to win a Stanley Cup. It came sooner than I’d expected.”
The Hawks were looking to fill the void left on defense when they traded Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers last weekend.
"Montador is a player we've had a lot of interest in," Bowman said. "We actually tried to acquire him at the trading deadline. He's the style of defenseman that we've been lacking here. He's got a lot of skill for a guy who has some physicality to his game.
"He's got the ability to move the puck but a couple of other factors about him is he's a right-handed defenseman, which is really at a premium these days. I think there's only one other free-agent defenseman of any import that's a righty. We like the fact he can play that side."
Montador had a career-high 21 assists and 26 points last season and led the Sabres with a plus-16 plus-minus rating. He also had 136 blocked shots and 86 penalty minutes.
"He brings a little bit of physicality and grit to the team," Bowman said. "He's a character kid and I think in a lot of ways he's just coming into his own right now. He's improved the last three years. Each season he's had increased ice time and played almost 20 minutes a night last year."
Bowman was also busy trying to sign the Hawks' three remaining restricted free agents, Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik and Chris Campoli.
"We've had discussions but call it in the early stages," Bowman said. "It's a matter of getting that finished. We're going to keep at it (Thursday). It's hard to predict if it will be a day or two. It certainly could be or it could stretch a bit longer. The goal is to get those guys done in short order."
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