Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman wasted little time in matching the San Jose Sharks' offer to restricted free agent defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson
Three days after the Sharks presented the 23-year-old defenseman with a four-year, $14-million offer, the defending Stanley Cup champions equaled the contract. If the Hawks didn't match the Sharks' offer by Friday, they would have received San Jose's first- and third-round picks in the 2011 Entry Draft as compensation.
The Blackhawks have been paying the price for winning a championship, shedding salary by trading players such as Dustin Byfuglien to Atlanta and Kris Versteeg to Toronto in an attempt to get under the salary cap for the 2010-11 campaign.
Hjalmarsson, paired mostly with Brian Campbell throughout Chicago's run to the Cup, played a major role in helping the Blackhawks sweep the Sharks in the Western Conference Final before disposing of the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup in six games. In his first full NHL season, he had 2 goals, 17 points and a plus-9 rating in 77 regular-season games. He then added 1 goal and 7 assists in the playoffs, including 2 assists against the Sharks, while averaging just over 21 minutes of ice time per game.
A fourth-round selection by the Blackhawks in the 2005 Entry Draft, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder has 3 goals and 21 points in 111 regular-season games and 1 goal and 9 points in 39 playoff games.
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer