There is a wide range of emotion that comes up when the word “trade” is mentioned surrounding a hockey team. In the case of the Chicago Blackhawks, especially in the last 12 months, those emotions are largely negative.
But this summer, there is one player on the roster who shouldn’t feel safe, and statistics indicate fans should feel confident that, if this player is indeed moved, the team will be OK in the long-term.
As we have done in the past, let’s look at two anonymous players. They’re defensemen.
In this comparison, we see two nearly identical players. The first player has more games on his resume, and did a better job of hitting, blocking shots and taking the puck away while posting more than twice as many points in ten fewer seconds per game. However, the first player has 12 more NHL games on his resume than the second player.
What might surprise Blackhawks fans is knowing who these two players are:
Player A is Nick Leddy.
Player B is Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Over two seasons, Hjalmarsson made 34 appearances in the NHL before becoming a regular part of the blue line group in Chicago during the 2009-10 season. Of course, Nick Leddy split the 2010-11 season between Chicago and Rockford after he was acquired in the trade that sent Cam Barker to Minnesota.
Leddy showed incredible development over the course of his first professional season, and will be a major factor in the future of the defensive core for the Blackhawks.
On the other hand, Hjalmarsson is now making $3.5M, and put up numbers this past season that aren’t close to earning that salary.
Indeed, one player that put up comparable numbers to those of Hjalmarsson this year was Andy MacDonald of the New York Islanders. Despite playing in 20 fewer games, MacDonald had only six fewer blocked shots and eight fewer hits than Hjalmarsson during the regular season, and posted 17 more points and 17 more takeaways this season.
The trouble with MacDonald, 24, from a Blackhawks’ perspective is that his cap number for the next three seasons is $550k… nearly three million less than Hjalmarsson in Chicago.
When the free agent market dries up quickly this summer, and teams look for a young addition to their blue line, Hjalmarsson might be a name that becomes popular on the trade market.