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Blackhawks sign Steve Montador to fill defensive void

Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane left is checked by Anaheim Ducks' Steve Montador during first period an NHL hockey game Tuesday

Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane, left, is checked by Anaheim Ducks' Steve Montador during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 3, 2009, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: June 30, 2011 7:45PM

The Blackhawks needed to grab a defenseman – one with experience and ability to play on the penalty kill. And you could argue they needed him prior to shipping puck-mover Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers at the draft.

The Hawks appear to have that player now in Steve Montador, who they acquired from the Buffalo Sabres for a seventh-round pick in 2012 or 2013 late Wednesday night.

The Hawks and Montador reached a deal Thursday afternoon. His deal is worth a reported $11 million over four years. He will have a $2.75 million cap hit, an increase from his $1.55 million last season.

The 31-year-old was set become an unrestricted free agent on Friday, when free agency opens.

As of Thursday morning, there have only been brief conversations between the Hawks and Montador’s camp. General manager Stan Bowman did speak with Montador and his agent after the trade was completed and said he was optimistic the two sides could reach a deal.

“We had a good discussion [Wednesday] night,” Bowman said. “Obviously, the goal is to get him signed before [Friday]. I’m optimistic on that and we have to get going on that. He certainly brings a lot of different attributes to the table that we like. I think he’d be a great fit on the blue line.”

Montador spent the last two seasons with the Sabres. He posted career highs in assists (21) and points (26) 21 assists and a career-best plus-16 plus rating in 73 regular-season games last year. Montador also led Buffalo with 136 blocks, while seeing ample time on the penalty kill.

The Sabres traded him not long after acquiring the negotiating rights to former Vancouver Canucks blue-liner Christian Ehrhoff from the New York Islanders, who first acquired his rights.

The Hawks attempted to acquire Montador before the trade deadline last season. He also has a right-handed shot, which Bowman wanted to add.

“He’s a style of defenseman we’ve been lacking here,” Bowman said. “He’s got a lot of skill for a guy who has some physicality to his game. He’s actually pretty offensive even though people don’t paint him in that light. He had almost 27 points with no power-play time. He’s got the ability to move the puck.

“A couple other factors about him is that he’s a right-handed defenseman, which is really at a premium these days. ... So we like the fact he can play that side. He brings a bit of physicality and grit to the team. He’s a character kid. In a lot of ways, he’s just coming into his own right now. He’s improved the last three years. Each season he’s got increased time, playing almost 20 minutes a night last year.”

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