| Sharks sign Hjalmarsson to
Young D-man inks 4-year, $14 million
Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson sent a shot over
the bow of the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday by extending a contract offer to
restricted free-agent defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. The deal would pay the
23-year old defenseman $14 million over four years. The Blackhawks have seven
days to counter the offer. If they choose not to, they would receive the Sharks
1st and 3rd round selections in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
It will be
interesting to see what Chicago elects to do, because they are in a cap-space
quandary. Having already shipped Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Soppel, Andrew Ladd,
Kris Versteeg and Ben Eager to other clubs in an effort to get under the salary
cap, the Hawks must decide if Hjalmarsson is worth the cost that Wilson has
established. That's a lot of money for a young defenseman with one full year of
service under his belt.
With Hjalmarsson being restricted, the
Blackhawks probably figured they could wait to see how their arbitration
hearing with goaltender Antti Niemi plays out before figuring out how much they
have to spend on Hjalmarsson. Wilson now forces their hands. At least over the
Hjalmarsson would instantly vacate the void created by
veteran Rob Blake on the Sharks blueline. He split time between Chicago and
Rockford from 2007-2009, before securing a regular spot on the Blackhawks
roster last season.
Appearing in 111 NHL games thus far, the native of
Ekso, Sweden, has 3 goals and 18 regular season assists. He scored a goal and
added 8 assists in all 22 of the Blackhawks post season games during their
Stanley Cup run this past spring.
The 4th round draft pick was
selected 108th overall in the 2005 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks.
feel Niklas is a top-three defenseman in the National Hockey League," said
Wilson. "We saw his abilities first-hand in the playoffs last season and he was
an important piece of a Stanley Cup-winning team. He is a solid player that
would be a good fit on our team now and in the future."
Hjalmarsson's 137 blocked shots last season, ranked
32nd in the league. That surpassed any Sharks defenseman (Dan Boyle blocked
130). At 6'3", the defenseman is not regarded as a big hitter, nor is he likely
to fill Blake's role on the power play.
What he does bring is a solid
defensive player that can more the puck and plug defensive holes. If he does
turn out to be a top three d-man, the Sharks just solved a long term problem.
His age provides lots of upside, and when you consider the Sharks also
have Marc-Edouard Vlasic (23), Jason Demers (22) on the regular roster and Nick
Petrecki (21) in the pipeline, the Sharks are well positioned for the future,
so long as they stay out of the same cap predicament that has befallen Chicago
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