• Blackhawks sign defenseman Brian Campbell to eight-year deal ($7.125 million annual average), goalie Cristobal Huet to four years at $5.6 million per season
It wasn't so long ago when Chicago GM Dale Tallon had to practically beg free agents to put on a Blackhawks jersey. When begging didn't work, he paid them way more than anyone else would. Now, Tallon has built a team that has become a destination for free agents, as witnessed by his acquisition Tuesday of the top free-agent defenseman on the market, Brian Campbell, and the top free-agent goaltender, Cristobal Huet. Now, you can quibble with whether Tallon overpaid for either player, but there is no disputing that a team that missed the playoffs by just three points last season has dramatically improved. The Blackhawks ranked 24th on the power play and 20th in goals against per game. Both those areas should be better with Huet and Campbell. Would Tallon like to move incumbent goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and his $6.75 million salary? Sure. But Tallon told ESPN.com he's comfortable moving forward with Huet and Khabibulin as a tandem, even if it means he's got more than $12 million tied up in goaltending next season. "The perceptions are all changed [about Chicago as a hockey town]," Tallon said.
Free-agency grade: Campbell, A+; Huet, A-