NHL Free Agency: Chicago Blackhawks Sign Brunette, Mayers Among Others

Derek CooleyCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2011

ST PAUL, MN - MARCH 22:  Andrew Brunette #15 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Xcel Energy Center on March 22, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

If you didn't notice, there is a free-agency period that is actually running on time. Who would have thought? Amidst the beginning of the NBA lockout and continued NFL lockout, the National Hockey League has officially begun its free-agency period without any problems.

The 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks look to bounce back after a rough year defending the cup, eventually getting ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks.  

The Blackhawks made drastic efforts to retool the team while dumping salary during the NHL draft this past week, and those efforts quickly turned to reality.  

The Blackhawks traded winger Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for a late first-round selection, saving the club money right away. GM Stan Bowman then made a couple of surprising moves involving ex-Hawk GM Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers.  

Bowman was able to move Brian Campbell and his ridiculous contract to Florida, which required Campbell to also waive his no-trade clause. He was also able to trade the rights to Tomas Kopecky's contract to Florida, allowing the Blackhawks to avoid arbitration with Kopecky after a breakout season.

With all that saved money and available roster space, the Blackhawks were able to make four signings official on Friday.

The biggest signing was 15-year NHL veteran Andrew Brunette.  

Brunette had been with the Minnesota Wild for the past four seasons, collecting 46 points for them last season. In his career, Brunette has piled up 256 goals and 450 assists in 1,032 NHL games.

Brunette will certainly help out the Blackhawks in terms of experience and power-play scoring. He accounted for eight power-play goals for the Wild last season, which was tied for first on the team.

The Blackhawks also signed enforcer Jamal Mayers to try to fill the hole left uncovered by Dustin Byfuglien.  

Mayers played for the San Jose Sharks this past season, racking up 124 penalty minutes and 105 hits. Mayers will add a component left by Dustin Byfluglien's departure. He only accumulated 14 points last season, which doesn't matter too much considering that neither Mayers nor the Blackhawks will be looking for him to score.  

The 36-year-old still has the ability to be a spark-plug on the ice, which is exactly what Chicago needs.

The other two signings of the day for Chicago were Brett McLean and Sean O'Donnell. McLean played for Bern in the Swiss League this past season, notching 10 goals and 17 assists. O'Donnell, on the other hand, was a veteran locker-room type guy for the Flyers last year, compiling 18 points in 82 games played for them.

The 39-year-old O'Donnell is currently 10th on the NHL's active list in games played with 1,173 tilts.

Each of the four contracts signed are one-year deals.  

The Blackhawks signed Buffalo defenseman Steve Montador to a four-year deal on Thursday.