The Blackhawks added depth and grit to the blue line on Sunday, agreeing to terms with defenseman Sheldon Brookbank on a two-year deal on the first day of free agency. The deal came through just hours after the NHL's signing period began, but the veteran rearguard says he was more than happy to sign when he got the call from Chicago.
“I’m really excited,” Brookbank said on a media call Sunday night. “Things happened quick here, but the Hawks were a team I hoped would have some interest in me. They’ve got a young team with a lot of potential here and they’re proven winners, so I’m happy to join and try to help get back there.”
The 31-year-old, who describes himself as a steady, not-too-flashy defenseman, set a career-high with 14 points (3G, 11A) in Anaheim last season, pacing the Ducks with a +11 plus/minus rating, while also providing 120 hits and 110 blocked shots. His nearly two minutes per game on the penalty kill in 2011-12 will also prove useful for a Blackhawks team looking to improve in special teams situations.
“That’s one of the things they said they needed: a penalty-killing defenseman. I played penalty kill in the past few seasons, and it’s one of the roles on the team that I take pride in,” said Brookbank. “If I can help out the team that way, that’s what I’m doing.”
Sheldon is the second Brookbank to join the Blackhawks organization in his career; his brother Wade joined the club’s AHL affiliate in Rockford in 2010-11, and played 17 games for the IceHogs last season.
“Wade has been with the organization for the past few years, and he calls Chicago his home still,” he said. “He definitely was involved [in this decision]; if I had any questions about the organization, he knew what it was all about. He had nothing but good things to say. He made it sound like a good place to play.”
One of the aspects that truly appealed to Brookbank about the Blackhawks was the team’s enormous home-ice advantage and the city overall. Chicago has become a hockey hotbed in the past few years, and players around the league have taken notice.
“The city itself is one of the top cities I’ve ever been to in my life, and it’s always been held up pretty high in my mind,” he said. “The organization itself, the buzz in the city... you can feel it when you come into the United Center. They really have a true passion for hockey and an exciting team there. I’m happy to become a part of it.”