Report: Brian Campbell considering return to Blackhawks in free agency

Keith Yandle’s six-year deal in Florida makes it all the more certain that Brian Campbell will test free agency, and one potential landing spot could be in Chicago. Campbell, 37, spent three seasons with the Blackhawks, but would have to take a serious pay cut to return.

The Florida Panthers’ signing of Keith Yandle to a big-money deal makes it a near certainty that veteran defenseman Brian Campbell will be looking to patrol the blueline elsewhere in 2016-17, and it appears on option could be a return to a former city where Campbell had a lot of success.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc, Campbell, 37, is considering a return to the Chicago Blackhawks in the off-season, though it would mean that he has to take a significant pay cut from the $7.14 million he was earning this past season. Campbell had six goals and 31 points during the past off-season and could no doubt command at least $4 million on the open market, but a cap hit of that much almost assuredly wouldn’t work for the Blackhawks, who are already under a cap crunch with not much room to maneuver.

A return to Chicago would be an intriguing move for Campbell, though, and a huge get for the Blackhawks, whose blueline was very clearly missing a key piece during the past season.

Kuc reported that part of what makes a Campbell return to Chicago a possibility is that he spends his summers in the city. He played three seasons with the Blackhawks, during which time he helped Chicago to a Stanley Cup during the 2009-10 season, and he had his most success offensively during his campaigns as a Blackhawk. Over the course of 215 games in Chicago, Campbell averaged .54 points per game. It’s not a wide margin, but that’s better than Campbell fared in Buffalo (.45 points per game) and Florida (.47).

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Chicago could desperately use Campbell, too. Although the Blackhawks blueline already has a number of veteran pieces — each of Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook are 29 or older — the bottom three defensemen are all relatively inexperienced and could use more seasoning. Signing Campbell would also give Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville the option of running a veteran blueliner with a youngster on his bottom two pairs, which currently isn’t an option given the makeup of the defense.

However, the problem for Chicago is cap space, because isn’t it always?

The Blackhawks have only $6.39 million available to be spent in the upcoming campaign and they’ll need at least three more forwards to sign before the season begins. However, Kuc reported the Blackhawks are possibly shopping Marcus Kruger, who makes $3.08 million per season but is a huge part of the Blackhawks bottom-six and penalty kill. Kuc added Chicago could be testing the waters on trading restricted free agent Andrew Shaw, too.

Those moves could make signing Campbell more realistic, but it’s going to take some major maneuvering — and a serious pay cut — for Campbell to become a Blackhawk. Don’t rule it out, but be wary of dusting off those No. 51 jerseys just yet.