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Chicago Blackhawks sign highly coveted defenceman Brian Campbell

In this May 2, 2008 file photo, San Jose Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell skates during Game 5 of a Western Conference semifinal playoff hockey series against the Dallas Stars. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

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In this May 2, 2008 file photo, San Jose Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell skates during Game 5 of a Western Conference semifinal playoff hockey series against the Dallas Stars. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

CHICAGO - Brian Campbell is bringing some defence to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Campbell, the top free-agent defenceman available Tuesday as the free agent market opened, signed an eight-year deal with the Blackhawks - a young team that already features rising star forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

The Blackhawks also signed free agent goalie Cristobal Huet to a four-year deal Tuesday.

Campbell's deal is reportedly worth US$7.14 million annually with the total of $57.12 million the richest in team history. Huet will make $5.626 million annually.

"We decided we'd try to make an impact today to give our fans something to get excited about," general manager Dale Tallon said. "When you do that, you're going to overpay, but now we have the resources and the ability to do that."

Campbell, who spent most of his first eight seasons with the Buffalo Sabres before being dealt to the San Jose Sharks at last season's trade deadline, has 35 goals and 160 assists in 411 regular-season NHL games.

After two seasons with the Kings, Huet went to Montreal for most of three years before being traded to the Washington Capitals late last season. He has a career 83-61-11 record with a 2.43 goals-against average.

They are major moves for the Blackhawks, who are trying to become a playoff regular after missing the post-season nine times in the last 10 seasons.

"Our No. 1 priority was to solidify goal and defence and then move forward," Tallon said.

Campbell is expected to help boost a power play that ranked 24th in the league last season. He scored five power-play goals last season.

"He can move the puck, skate up ice and get you out of trouble," Tallon said. "The power play, at the point, is what he does best."

Chicago finished at 40-34-8 and 88 points, three behind Nashville and the final playoff spot in the Western Conference last season. The Blackhawks were led by Kane and Toews. Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

The Blackhawks also announced they had acquired a future second-round draft pick from the Calgary Flames for the rights to restricted free agent forward Rene Bourque. Bourque played in 62 games with Chicago last season, getting 24 points - including 10 goals.

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