Well done, Bowman. I have to say, your first addition of the summer impressed me.
On Wednesday, two days before the start of free agency, the Chicago Blackhawks traded for the negotiation rights to defenseman Steve Montador of the Buffalo Sabres. In exchange, the Buffalo Sabres will receive the conditional seventh-round pick the Blackhawks acquired from Florida that gave them the negotiation rights to Tomas Kopecky.
The Blackhawks will now have all of Thursday to sign Montador. Considering the salary cap flexibility the Blackhawks now have and a vacancy on the blueline, I'm fairly confident that Stan Bowman will get a deal done sometime Thursday.
Montador made $1.55 million in the 2010-2011 season and is due up for a small raise. He's coming off his best season to date. He recorded a career-high 26 points and was a plus-16. He also had 136 blocked shots, 86 hits and 83 penalty minutes. I expect a two- or three-year deal that will pay Montador $2 million per season.
Montador is exactly the defenseman the Blackhawks need. A reliable, tough, defensive-minded defenseman, Montador will provide a stay-at-home style to the Blackhawks blueline which is full of offensive-minded puck movers.
At 6'0" 207 lbs, Montador isn't the biggest defenseman out there, but he plays with a physicality and a meanness that the Blackhawks have been lacking in their blueline for quite some time.
He's capable of playing close to 20 minutes per night and could be used in the Blackhawks' top four or on the bottom pairing. Either way, it will take some weight off the shoulders of Keith and Seabrook and help appropriately distribute the ice-time amongst the defensemen.
Montador can also be expected to play on the penalty kill. His shutdown style, along with his ability to block shots, make him an effective penalty killer.
In addition, don't overlook Montador's ability to contribute offensively. He's recorded 92 points over his last four NHL seasons. They certainly aren't mind-boggling numbers, but they're better than what we were getting from our bottom pairing defensemen last season.
From my perspective, this move is an excellent first step in re-tooling the roster for Stan Bowman. A few days ago, a lot of fans, myself included, were questioning whether or not Bowman had any sort of agenda or if he was just planning to wing it and hope the players were still there when Friday rolled around.
I think many of us were worried how confident Bowman seemed with his defense and his comments about expecting John Scott to play as the sixth defenseman and receive more ice-time. The acquisition of Montador at least tells me that Bowman is aware that Scott clearly cannot be relied upon on a nightly basis as a sixth defenseman if this team wants to be a contender. That's a good sign.
More importantly, it wasn't just who Bowman got, it was how he got him. Instead of waiting for free agency to roll around and potentially lose the player he had his eyes on, Bowman took the initiative and did what seems to be the trend these days which is trade a late-round pick for the player's exclusive negotiation rights.
And what makes this move even more genius is that Bowman traded away the pick he acquired from Florida, thus leaving all seven selections in next year's draft untouched.
So, in other words, this is how it panned out: Bowman traded the rights to a player who he never had the intention of signing anyways, for a pick he then used to acquire a player who was badly needed on his roster before that player had a chance to hit the open market.
If you ask me, that's called being practical and proactive.
This was a great opening move by Stan Bowman. Not only did Bowman target the right player, but he decided to be aggressive instead of waiting around until Friday when 29 other teams can put their bids in.
This move indicates to me that, not only does Bowman knows what kinds of players his team needs, he has specific players in mind. He has one more day to acquire negotiation rights to other players if he chooses. I wouldn't be against doing this, considering how expensive some free agents might be on the open market.
But as long as the offseason is filled with effective, affordable, low-risk acquisitions like this one, this will truly be an exciting summer.
And maybe Bowman will prove that he really does know what he's doing.