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JOHN LEHMANN/JOHN LEHMANN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Add another unrestricted free agent to the list.

In a bit of a new twist, the Chicago Blackhawks have walked away from restricted free agent Chris Campoli before his arbitration hearing was originally scheduled to take place on Aug. 3.

Because the team and player had both agreed to part ways, they were able to speed the process up, speak with an arbitrator today and allow Campoli to be set free two weeks ahead of time.

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As a technicality, Campoli was "awarded" a $2.5-million deal, which Chicago then walked away from. In reality, that outcome was predetermined.

"The decision was made to move the date up to today because Chicago likes Chris and didn't want him to be in a position where he was suddenly an unrestricted free agent in August," Campoli's agent Rich Evans said.

"As long as the NHL and the Players' Association were in agreement, and the player and his agent and the team were in agreement, there was nothing holding us up from doing this and moving the date."

Evans added that multiple teams have already enquired about Campoli's availability.

The 27-year-old defenceman was a trade deadline pickup by the Blackhawks, who gave up a second-round pick and Ryan Potulny to land him in late February. Campoli played 19 regular season and seven playoff games for Chicago but will likely be most remembered for the giveaway that led to Vancouver Canucks winger Alex Burrows' winning goal in overtime of Game 7 in the first round.

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman announced last Friday that Campoli had played his last game as a Blackhawk given how far apart they were in salary talks and the team's cap situation. He spent the past few days attempting to deal him before they argree to expedite the arbitration process and walk away.

"It was apparent from the beginning their salary demands were just not in concert with where we see him fitting in our team," Bowman said last week. "We had to make a decision it wasn't going to happen. We made our best offer and it wasn't to his liking. He sees himself in a different category, price-wise."

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Bowman then signed Sami Lepisto as a free agent for $750,000 to round out his defence core.

Campoli, meanwhile, becomes one of the top five or so options left in free agency on the blueline and shouldn't have any trouble finding an NHL home as a second or third pairing defenceman with some upside. He's an excellent skater who can move the puck and play 18 to 20 minutes a night.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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