Bad news, Hawks fans.
According to TSN, Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson has signed an offer sheet with San Jose. The offer sheet is worth 14 million dollars over 4 years, which is a 3.5 million dollar cap hit. The Blackhawks have 7 days to match the offer and keep Hjalmarsson. If they don't match the offer, Hjalmarsson becomes a Shark and the Hawks receive 1st and 3rd round draft picks in 2011.
I've been telling people to relax about the Hawks' offseason moves so far, but losing Hjalmarsson would really sting.
Once again, the Hawks are put in a very unfavorable position because of their money problems. Every GM in the league knows that the Hawks are handicapped financially, and San Jose clearly is trying to take advantage of it.
What are the chances that the Hawks match the offer? The decision would be much easier if we knew what type of contract Niemi will get from arbitration. Unfortunately, we won't know Niemi's contract offer for a while.
It's very possible that the Hawks have a choice to make: Niemi or Hjalmarsson?
Others speculate that the Hawks could trade Patrick Sharp so they can keep both.
If it comes down to Niemi vs. Hjalmarsson, I think the Hawks would choose Hjalmarsson. Last month's Stanley Cup Finals matchup proved that goaltending might not be as important as originally thought in the post-lockout NHL. Both the Flyers and Hawks had "goaltending issues" all year, and look where they ended up.
Ideally though, the Hawks can keep both Niemi and Hjalmarsson without having to move a top player like Sharp. They may have to make additional mid-level moves to trim some salary, but it could be done.
One thing Stan Bowman should consider is shopping Marty Reasoner, a veteran 3rd/4th liner the Hawks picked up from Atlanta in the Byfuglien deal. Reasoner makes 1.15 million, and if the Hawks could move him for a pick, they could replace him with a player that makes 500k and save more than half a million dollars against the cap. It would make the team even younger, but if that is the difference between keeping Niemi and/or Hjalmarsson, it's a no-brainer.
Hopefully we will learn more about the Hawks' intentions in the coming days. One thing to keep in mind: Scotty Bowman once compared Hjalmarsson to a "young Niklas Lidstrom."
How likely is it that they'll let him go?
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