Brian Campbell just agreed to an eight-year contract worth $56.8 million with the Blackhawks, making him the big-ticket item on the first day of unrestricted free agency. It's crazy money when you think the Sabres could have had the Skating Tomato for $5 million a year last summer. And they thought he was asking for too much.
The Blackhawks have had their eye on Campbell since last season, when it became obvious that his days were numbered with the Sabres. GM Dale Tallon wanted him at the trade deadline but couldn't get himself to pull the trigger, knowing his team probably wouldn't make the playoffs.
Look for the Blackhawks to be a team on the rise over the next couple seasons, much like the Penguins have been since the lockout. South Buffalo's Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be in their second season. Campbell joins a team that is loaded with good, young defensemen. Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, James Wisniewski, Cam Barker and Niklas Hjalmarsson are all 24 or younger and can play.
If the Sabres are the No. 1 team in Buffalo, is it safe to say that Chicago is No. 2?
After all, there plenty of Western New York connections other than Kane. Hawks assistant GMs are Lewiston resident Rick Dudley and former Williamsville resident Stan Bowman (Scotty's kid). Their top community relations man is Pete Hassen, who graduated from Sweet Home High School and worked for the Sabres before moving to Chicago. Clarence-raised Kevyn Adams played there last year.
--- Bucky Gleason