It’s been clear for a few weeks now that the Chicago Blackhawks were interested in moving some of their higher-salaried depth defenseman to other teams. On Sunday, a report out of Chicago suggested that the Edmonton Oilers were investigating the possibility of making a pitch for Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson continues to be in play, and the Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers are said to be among the teams doing their homework on him… [General manager Stan] Bowman said the Hawks aren’t looking for anything specific on the trade market. But adding size, a proven center and defensive depth are needs.
Hjalmarsson was a top-four defenseman with the Blackhawks for much of the season, but saw himself moved largely to the third-pairing down the stretch and in the playoffs. A pair of concussions late in the season cost him 13 games and reduced his role when he was healthy, with the duo of Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy moving above him on the depth chart. Last month, the Blackhawks inked Oduya – who they picked up at the trade deadline – to a three-year contract extension.
Hjalmarsson was one of the entry-level contracts on Chicago’s team when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010. With the Blackhawks struggling to keep pieces from that team long-term, the San Jose Sharks inked the defender to an offer-sheet, a four-year contract worth $14 million. Chicago matched, hoping that the young Hjalmarsson (who had just turned 23) would continue to improve.
Instead, Hjalmarsson has stayed at more or less the same level. He’s a competent defensive defenseman with negligible offensive impact who gets regular work at even-strength and on the power play. He adds size (6’3”, 207lbs) but is more of a positional defender than a crash-and-bang style player – though he’s certainly willing to step up and make the big hit when the opportunity arises. He’s also a high-end shot-blocker. Thanks to the presence of Duncan Keith in Chicago, Hjalmarsson has never been leaned on to be the team’s primary shut-down defender, though he’s done a pretty good job against secondary threats.
Hjalmarsson is a legitimate top-four defenseman and would undoubtedly aid the Oilers’ defense corps. He doesn’t seem an ideal fit, however – he’s very much in the same role as Ladislav Smid and Nick Schultz, and like those two he has primarily played on the left side over the course of his NHL career.
One possibility is that the Oilers really believe they are in the running for Justin Schultz. The young defenseman plays an offensive game and is a right-handed shot; conceivably the Oilers could have three pairings with a defensive option (Smid, Schultz, Hjalmarsson) and three pairings with an offensive option (Petry, Whitney, Schultz). That still leaves them with four left-shooting defensemen, but Whitney paired with Schultz down the stretch and they presumably could make it work. In this hypothetical scenario, there would only be room for one or possibly two of Andy Sutton, Corey Potter and Theo Peckham on the NHL roster.
On the other hand, the possibility simply exists that this is nothing more than the Oilers doing due diligence on an available defenseman with top-four ability. Nothing in Jahns’ report suggests that a deal is imminent or even probable.
This week by Jonathan Willis
- The 2012 NHL Entry Draft: Recap
- Should the Oilers have made a pitch for Zbynek Michalek?
- The Oilers select forward Mitch Moroz 32nd overall
- The Jets select Lukas Sutter 39th overall
- The Canucks select Alexandre Mallet 57th overall
- The top five ranked players left after the end of the first round
- Moving up and down at the NHL Draft
- Should the Oilers take a goalie in the second round?
- The Edmonton Oilers and the window to win
- Lennart Petrell returns to the Edmonton Oilers
- St. Louis Blues re-sign Barret Jackman
- Are the Blue Jackets and Oilers good trading partners?