Thank You, Niklas Hjalmarsson

News broke hours before the 2017 NHL Draft began at the United Center that the Blackhawks had traded Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona.

For many, Hjalmarsson being dealt wasn’t a shocking turn of events. His contract (two remaining years with a $4.1M cap hit) was one of the great values in the NHL over the past couple years, and he will easily become a top-pair defenseman for the Coyotes. But the Hawks facing cap issues forced tough decisions, and Hjalmarsson became the best bet to move in a deal bringing back good return.

Friday was a busy day for the Hawks, however, and fans mourning the loss of Hjalmarsson only had about a half hour to digest the news of his departure before a more shocking trade – Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad – was announced. The dust had barely settled from those two trades when the draft began.

Now, with the weekend in the rear view mirror, we can exhale and take a step back.

How do we wrap up the legacy of Hjalmarsson in Chicago?

With all of the talk about draft steals over the weekend, one of the great finds in Chicago history is Hjalmarsson. The 108th overall selection in the 2005 NHL Draft, only 13 of the previous 107 selections have played more regular season games than Hjalmarsson.

Since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, only Brent Seabrook (609) and Duncan Keith (591) have played more games in the Indian head than Hjalmarsson (589). He averaged 20:47 on the ice over that stretch; those three defensemen were the rock of the Blackhawks three championships.

Since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, Hjalmarsson and Seabrook blocked 1,155 shots each. Only four defensemen in the NHL (Dan Girardi, Francois Beauchemin, Kris Russell and Josh Gorges) blocked more shots than Chicago’s pair.

Over that stretch of time, Hjalmarsson skated 1,490 minutes of short-handed ice time, which is the 14th-highest total in the NHL and the highest on the Blackhawks.

In total, Hjalmarsson played in 623 regular season games for the Blackhawks. He scored 23 goals with 143 assists in those contests. In the postseason, Hjalmarsson appeared in 128 games with Chicago posting two goals and 26 assists.

He won three championships with the Blackhawks.

No defenseman in Chicago Blackhawks history has appeared in more postseason games than Hjalmarsson. And his 623 regular season appearances rank tenth in franchise history.

And to think the rights to the draft choice used to select Hjalmarsson were acquired in one of the more infamous trades in Blackhawks history, with Chicago sending defenseman Alexander Karpovtsev to the New York Islanders on March 9, 2004.

But there’s also the matter of the offer sheet that cannot be ignored when discussing Hjalmarsson’s time with the Hawks.

In 2010, with the Blackhawks in the middle of a roster purge that felt like something out of the Old Testament to fans, the 23-year-old defenseman signed an offer sheet with the San Jose Sharks. I still remember being at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp at Johnny’s West when news broke that Hjalmarsson had signed an offer sheet, something that rarely happens in the NHL.

Former Blackhawks defenseman Doug Wilson gave Hjalmarsson an offer of four years and $14M that summer, putting additional financial pressure on Chicago GM Stan Bowman while already losing half of his Cup-winning roster.

As Chris Kuc remembered for the Chicago Tribune last year, the deal certainly didn’t make life any easier for the Blackhawks and Hjalmarsson could have been headed to San Jose in the wake of signing. But Bowman made the right choice and opted to keep Hjalmarsson at the more expensive price point over retaining Antti Niemi. The net eventually became Corey Crawford’s residence, and the Blackhawks have won two Cups since.

When fans look back at the core of the Chicago Blackhawks’ three championship teams, certainly Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook and Hossa will be there. But Hjalmarsson wasn’t only along for the ride with those more widely recognized and celebrated stars. He was a crucial component of the golden age of Blackhawks hockey.

24 thoughts on “Thank You, Niklas Hjalmarsson

  1. Niklas was clearly one of my favorite players from this era. He always gave a full effort for his team. I remember when he first came up to the Hawks and the NHL and to my eyes this kid had what it takes to play from the get go. He was self assured and went about his business calmly for such a young guy. It would have been interesting to see how his game would have evolved had he played on the other and more natural side since he was a lefty. He will be greatly missed. His interviews were always great and he had this great wry sense of humor. It’s going to be strange not seeing #4 out there when the Hawks hit the ice again, and my God no #81 either….

    Thanks Niklas, you will always viewed as a champion here in Chicago! Best of luck to you.

    Lets Go Hawks!

  2. A huge contributor to the three Cups. Talented, tough and unbelievably durable. Certain to be missed but we were fortunate to have him for his best years. Success going forward depends on integrating younger players onto the roster.

  3. never realized the Alexander Karpovtsev tie in, still an all-time great rant from Foley in a different Hawks era.

    Hammer was truly a warrior, not the most skilled guy but an absolutely gamer and backbone of a greatest stretch in Hawks hockey. Hammer was alway there doing his thing playing is minutes and shut the opposition down. My memory will be the lazer beam goal in game 7 against the wings that was called off. Man how that goal ignited the UC only to Seabs get the eventual winner. I have ALWAYS be under the thought process of moving a guy a year of 2 earlier is better than moving a guy late. Hammer will be a top pair in Phx for the next yr or two most likely. Thanks Hammer

  4. Thanks Hammer…….But I believe it’s the right move at the right time. Mr Murphy, you’ve got big shoes to fill.

  5. For years my favorite Hawk…I will always continue to wear my #4 jersey in honor of the Hammer…his immense contributions were instrumental to 3 Cups.

    Thank you Hammer!

  6. The best defenseman the Hawks had, yet so underrated by the team. It always amazed me to hear the announcers raving about him on nationally broadcast games, yet his solid, consistent, contributions to the team were somewhat overlooked by the goal scorers by our announcers. The Hawks will regret this deal for sure. I hope the Coyotes appreciate how lucky they are. Good luck, Niklas! Thanks, for all you brought to the team. You will be missed.

  7. I disagree. I don’t think Hammer’s contributions were overlooked by anyone in this organization, players or coaches or broadcasters. Though I do agree that we are in for a risky transition, depending upon whether or not Murphy can step up and take his game to the next level. We’ll all find out soon enough. If he can’t, (and I think he deserves more than a few games or months to prove it) then we will indeed be looking at this trade as a bad move.

  8. there are countless examples of hammer being a true warrior, leader and complete class act: two come to mind

    1) after his last extension, a very team friendly 4.1M$, the press asked why he took that pay when he could have made a 5-6M$ in the open market. his answer was a throwback classic: something to the effect of: money isn’t everything. I am happy here. my wife is happy here. we love chicago and this team and these fans. the players are treated great here by the team and the fans. we have won the cup here and we have a chance to win it again (which they did of course).

    wish more players had that much class and perspective and maybe we wouldn’t be in the cap hell we have endured lately.

    2) our norris winning D man duncan keith gets suspended for a critical game vs LA in ’13cup west conf finals for an intentional stick to jeff carter’s face: who steps into the #1 D role and wins that game for us? hammer: a true winner on and off the ice.

    no way we win the 3 cups without hammer. you will be sorely missed and never forgotten hammer. I hope by some twist of fate you return but whether you do or don’t, you will always be a blackhawk and a winner in my book.

  9. In that game 7 when Hammer scored the first GWG, I jumped so high my head hit the light on the ceiling. I felt like I just got bumped in the side of helmet by Albadekher. Even though they had no right to be up 3 games to 1, with how much they let them get away with/clutch grab hold interference. When Seabs scored the second GWG, it put them to bed/the final arrow in the red wings/put them to bed for good. As they were the best team for 15-20yrs and now it was our turn to be the best team for 15ish yrs. Salary cap/95m rosters in the mid 90s.

    Hammer and Seabs bow and arrow shots put them away for good.

  10. Underrated Underrated Underrated!

    I’m up there in years so I’ve seen a lot of players. Have been saying for years that Niklas is one of the six best defensemen in Blackhawks history. No Niklas, no three Cups.

  11. Like Clint Eastwood said, “a man has got to know his limitations”. Hammer didn’t try to be something that he wasn’t. He wasn’t a great skater, didn’t have a heavy shot, wasn’t an offensive defenseman. But he was an incredible passer from the boards to the circling center in our zone. How many times did we see that “no look” pass between the legs to Tazer breaking out near our goal line??? He was our best penalty killing defenseman and one of the most fearless shot blockers in recent memory. Plus, he delivered some incredible hits when the time was right.

    We will all miss #4, but he will go to a team that desperately needs a veteran defenseman to show the young guns the right way to play and win. Hammer will never have to say a word……all the young guns need to do is watch. Good luck #4!!
    AND THANK YOU!!

  12. Reminiscent of that Karma Kronwall hit behind the right side of net, just smeared that punk into the boards like it was a sponsor name being printed.

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