Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The first day of NHL free agency is like Christmas for fans of any team. Last year, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman was very active right out of the gate, gift wrapping several key role players within the first 3 hours. That flurry of activity gave Blackhawks fans hope for a pony under the tree on July 1st, 2012; but instead fans will have to settle for a hamster.

This fall the Blackhawks will be welcoming stay-at-home defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, coming to us by way of Anaheim. Brookbank is 6’1″, 202 lbs. and is a right-handed shot. He notched his best year last season with 3 goals, 11 assists, 72 penalty minutes, 120 hits and 110 blocked shots. He’ll be a 5-6-7 depth player, most likely just an upgrade from Sami Lepisto or Sean O’Donnell. Or so Stan hopes.

Brookbank’s deal is reportedly $2.5 million over 2 seasons, we’re still awaiting word on exactly what the breakdown is in terms of salary and bonuses. He’s just 27 years old, and the Blackhawks must see some potential in him with that size contract. As with Lepisto and O’Donnell, time will tell.

And then… nothing!

Now admittedly, there was a fair amount of action today, but most of it was as dull as a grade school Christmas pageant. The biggest AAV contract went to Ray Whitney at $4.5 million over 2 years with Dallas; the biggest contract in total value went to P.A. Parenteau, who scored $16 million over 4 years to play in Colorado. No news on Zach Parise, no news on Ryan Suter, no news on Martin Brodeur… sort of…

The Blackhawks were widely reported to be one of three teams that were actively pursuing, and possibly making actual offers to, New Jersey’s hall of fame netminder. This has not been confirmed by the Blackhawks, but if true, this is a very significant development in the Blackhawks goaltending saga.

If Martin Brodeur comes to Chicago, it’s to be the starting goaltender. He’s not testing the market to be a backup, when he has a guaranteed starting job back in New Jersey, or with the Leafs or Panthers — the other two teams reportedly pursuing him. Stan Bowman knows this, so if he’s seriously pursuing Brodeur, it’s for the starting job. Period, no question, end of story. Anyone thinking Brodeur would seriously consider coming to Chicago to “mentor” somebody or play backup, think again.

With this story going public, the Blackhawks just tipped their hand, and Corey Crawford now knows that the organ-eye-zation has questions about his ability to backstop this team to a Stanley Cup. No matter what happens with Brodeur and the Blackhawks in the long run, Crawford knows that he was not Bowman’s first choice for a starting goaltender. That’s going to shake his confidence from the word go, and in my opinion, locks the ‘Hawks into the path of finding a new starting netminder.

Because whether Crawford could handle the job yesterday, he is no longer capable of handling it today. Not after this.

I’m also going to dash the hopes of anyone hoping the Blackhawks will/might/could pick up either Parise or Suter: each is reportedly asking for close to $25 million —  just in signing bonuses – over the first 2 years of any contract they sign. That’s insane money, and it represents a demand that the Blackhawks will chuckle at as they hang up the phone. Neither one of them is signing here.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print as of 6:00pm Sunday. If anything else exciting happens we’ll pass it along. Be sure to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest as it happens.

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