Former San Jose Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell announced his retirement from the NHL on Monday. Campbell played 17 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, and Florida Panthers.
The Sharks acquired Campbell from Buffalo at the 2008 trade deadline, in exchange for Steve Bernier and a first round pick. Campbell, a pending unrestricted free agent at the time, made an instant impact in San Jose.
Living with childhood friend Joe Thornton after the trade, he scored 19 points in 20 games regular season games with the Sharks, as San Jose went 16-2-2 to finish out the year. They won nine consecutive games to begin Campbell’s teal tenure, as the defenseman dazzled offensively. Only three of his 19 points were goals, but none were prettier than his backhand, spin-o-rama effort against Montreal that former Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek is still recovering from.
Campbell cooled off in the postseason, but still led all Sharks defensemen with seven points in 13 games. San Jose was eliminated in the second round, and Campbell’s teal tenure ended in the penalty box. He tripped then-Stars winger Loui Eriksson in the sixth game of San Jose’s second round series with Dallas, and then-Stars captain Brenden Morrow eliminated the Sharks with the winning goal in the game’s fourth overtime on the ensuing power play.
The defenseman signed an eight-year, $57,143,000 contract with the Chicago Blackhawks in free agency two months later, and was booed in his first game back in San Jose that November. Although certainly diminished in intensity, Campbell was still booed in his subsequent returns.
But the boos were misguided. Campbell was great during his short San Jose stint, but letting him walk was in both his and the Sharks’ best interests. After all, without Campbell’s contract on the books, the Sharks acquired Dan Boyle during the summer of 2008. Boyle scored 269 points during his six seasons with the Sharks, just 23 less than Campbell scored (292) through the entirety of his eight-year deal. Former Battle of California Sharks writer stace_ofbase summed it up best in 2014 ahead of one of Campbell’s trips to SAP Center:
Sure, Campbell can be seen as greedy for going after a big paycheck, but remember that it's not like he was a franchise player. He was only on the team for a couple months. He was a rental, this shit happens all the time, who cares. Maybe Campbell would have been a superstar if he stayed in San Jose, maybe he would have turned out to be a turd like literally 80% of the players acquired by San Jose. I don't know. I don't care. It's been six years.
Campbell spent the first three years of his eight-year contract with Chicago, and finished the final five in Florida. He returned to the windy city last summer on a one-year deal, and will stay there in Chicago’s business operations department.