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Campbell couldn't pass on chance to return to Chicago

Defenseman signs one-year contract for opportunity to play again in city where he has offseason home

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks didn't have to look too long to find the second-pair defenseman they felt they needed.

Brian Campbell, who helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010, agreed to terms on a one-year contract Friday. Financial terms were not released, but ESPN reported the total value to be $2.25 million.

"It's where my heart is," said Campbell, who spent three seasons with the Blackhawks (2008-11) and lives in a Chicago suburb during the offseason. "Obviously last time when I was a free agent money played a factor in it. This time it was about what was best for me and for my family."

Campbell's wife is from the Chicago area and it is where they've chosen to raise their family. That factored heavily into Campbell's desire to return to the Blackhawks.

Tweet from @bcampbell_51: Wow am I lucky to be back playing for the @NHLBlackhawks

"I have two young daughters," Campbell said. "One's going into preschool, and I know preschool sometimes is not a big deal but it's just ... I've been welcomed into the neighborhood I live in and it's just where I wanted to be. It's where my heart was. It just makes our life perfect and we're ecstatic about being here."

After never adequately filling the void created by the departure of Johnny Oduya to the Dallas Stars last summer in free agency, the plan is for Campbell to join Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson in the top-four rotation for Chicago. Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson and Campbell were the top four defensemen on the 2010 Cup championship team.

Campbell, 37, led the Florida Panthers in ice time each of the past five seasons and can provide the Blackhawks with another steady puck-mover who can skate at a high level. He had six goals, 25 assists and a plus-31 rating last season for the Panthers, and brings extensive experience to both special teams.

"There's no question that Brian had a tremendous season this past year [in Florida] and several good years leading up to this year," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. "So I'm sure he had other opportunities. I think it speaks a lot to the kind of person that Brian is. He's a winner. He wants to win. I think he believes in our organization and certainly believes in our chance next year."

Video: Brian Campbell returns to Chicago

If Campbell plays top-four minutes, it will allow Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville to play defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk on the third pair. Last season, van Riemsdyk often played on the second pair.

Quenneville can shuffle partners on the third pair, likely choosing between Michal Kempny, 25, who was signed from the Kontinental Hockey League on May 24, and veteran Michal Rozsival, 37, who signed a one-year contract June 30 to return for a fifth season.

The Blackhawks also have Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg, who each played in the NHL last season, plus prospects Ville Pokka and Gustav Forsling.

Bowman said he's not concerned with Campbell and Rozsival taking up roster spots that otherwise would be used to groom young defensemen.

"This is the major leagues, and you want to compete for your spot and you want to earn it," Bowman said. "I think you get into trouble when you start handing out jobs to young players. There's a process for these guys to establish themselves as NHL regulars. And until they do that, they're going to be facing competition. And I think that's a good thing."

Video: FLA@BUF: Campbell notches his fifth goal of the year

Bowman said the Blackhawks' organizational depth on defense now is a strong suit.

"[Van Riemsdyk] had a big improvement last year, and I think it's well-chronicled the talents we have in Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson," Bowman said. "You put all that together and our defense is looking very, very strong. It's a strong point of our team right now."

Campbell is a key component as well, and he intends on proving it.

"I have a lot left in the tank," he said. "I feel great. I felt like I had a really good season this past year and over the last number of years. There's no egos here. For me, it's about doing what's best to win. I know how old I am, but I definitely don't feel that old."

The Blackhawks also agreed to a one-year contract with forwards Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Sam Carrick.

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