|Defenseman Steve Montador says he's honored to become the newest Blackhawk (Photo by Getty Images).
Steve Montador won’t give a second thought to not having a chance to test the free agent market on July 1. The chance to play for the Chicago Blackhawks, he said, far outweighs whatever the open market could hold had he waited for Friday.
“It’s very exciting for me,” Montador said in a conference call Thursday night. “It’s a huge honor for me to be a Blackhawk, and I’m ecstatic to get this done.”
When Blackhawks VP/GM Stan Bowman acquired his negotiating rights from Buffalo Wednesday night, Montador says he was enticed at the prospect of playing for a contender, and the Blackhawks’ recent track record went a long way toward convincing him to sign before he became an unrestricted free agent.
“The number one thing I wanted out of a team was the chance to win a Stanley Cup,” he said. “The chance came sooner than I expected, but it was a pleasant surprise when I was contacted by Stan and we got a deal done. The philosophy that I had heard about Chicago is about doing the right thing and playing to win a Cup.”
Bowman says that the Blackhawks’ top priority in free agency was to get a tough, rugged defenseman who was compatible with the team’s style, but could also fortify the blue line with some grit and toughness.
“We needed to bring a different style of player to our team on defense than we’ve had in the past couple of seasons,” Bowman said. “Last year, we already had Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell, and Nick Leddy emerged as a really good, young player for us and then we picked up Chris Campoli, and all four of those guys play a similar style. So when we ended up trading Brian, we knew we needed a defenseman, and we wanted to get someone who had size and strength, and plays with an edge.”
Enter Steve Montador. The 31-year-old Vancouver native meets all of the criteria that Bowman and his staff sought in a new acquisition, and his ability to play the right side gives the Hawks a third righty defenseman to fill out the pairings.
It’s a huge honor for me to be a Blackhawk, and I’m ecstatic to get this done. - Steve Montador
“Stylistically, we were really targeting a player who plays like Steve,” said Bowman. “We want to bring a different element to our team and I think while I say that, there are parts of Steve’s game that are underrated, and he’s going to fit in well with our forwards, as well. Steve kills penalties, and he can even play on the power play. It’s nice to have that mixture of skills.”
Though Montador says he isn’t very familiar with his new home, he knows the culture and excitement surrounding the United Center every game night, and looks forward to being a part of it.
“[As an opponent], I loved coming to play here. The energy of the building… and how great of a sports town it is makes [Chicago] very attractive. You can never count the Blackhawks out; there was never a score that was out of reach. That was an attitudinal element to the team, and the noise in the building mixed in makes them an intimidating team to play against.”
“I’m thankful to Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough, Stan, Joel Quenneville and the crew for giving me an opportunity; this was a no-brainer,” he said. “Everything I ever wanted is with the Blackhawks right now.”