Report: Edmonton Oilers interested in defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson

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.

From Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times:

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

  • I like Hjalmarsson. If we add him and a right handed shooter with an offensive tilt on the backend, then I would be pretty happy about our off-season as far as the blue is concerned. He seems like he would come cheaper than some comparable free agents out there and might not cost us as many assets as other trade options might. This is the kind of relatively young, yet already broken in dman that I would like to see the Oilers acquire. The question is what goes the other way? Is Magnus Paajarvi enough on his own? They might have some interest in Gagner but if we move him then we just created a hole at second line centre. Nice to hear that we are at least exploring our options.

  • Lexi

    If Chicago thinks it needs cap space for Suter, why don’t we swing for the fences with Seabrook? Gagner and PRV plus whatever draft picks are needed. Then sign Kyle Weldwood, unless somehow we can get Bolland in the trade as well.

  • I still don’t know why the Oilers re-signed Corey Potter and Andy Sutton. Both are pressbox guys, and may very well push Theo Peckham out of the organization.

    At least Peckham is young and has room for growth. Sutton only has a couple years of pro hockey left, isn’t much of an improvement IMO, and while Corey Potter likely can be sent to Oklahoma, he’s on a one-way deal that seems highly unnecessary at this point. Didn’t like the deals at the time, and don’t like them now.

    Oh well… no where to go but forward.

    • RPG

      The Potter deal was done at the beginning of the year when Potter suddenly ’emerged’ as the answer to our prayers. He was really good in the beginning of the year, then kind of dropped off after that. I still like the Sutton signing purely because he’s a better defender than Peckham, but still lays bug hits. Make no mistake, he is our size on the back end. He is a great number 7 on any night where it looks like size is needed to compete. I hated all the suspensions for doing little else than being a really big guy. He never hit from behind, never hit into the boards, all he did was hit. Had he not gotten the suspensions, all he would have done all year was wreck people. I’m sure we has told to dial it back after all that though. I do agree that Peckham can still develop, but with his contract you can’t send him back down to develop in the AHL, he has to be up and play. But there comes a point when his playing is causing too many penalties, and is hurting the team instead of helping them. Maybe he can spend the summer working hard on his game. I think he provides good physicality and a bit of depth for when one or all of our defense is injured.

      • Theo Peckham has to clear waivers. I would bet he doesn’t make it to Oklahoma City… there are a lot of teams who would take a chance on him, especially if they don’t have to pay for his full contract. I expect he’ll be traded.

        Andy Sutton was fine last year, but he’s not really a piece moving forward, he’s not a part of this team’s future. If we are choosing between #7 guys, I don’t like sacrificing Peckham for him.

        • misfit

          Ya, I get what your saying. I meant that Peckham not being 2 way was the reason he had to stay in the press box as opposed to getting the chance to develop. It sucks because, like you, I want to see Peckham shore up his game and become the big physical presence with discipline. I also agree that Sutton’s contract makes that difficult, but I don’t dislike the contract because even though Sutton isn’t going to be around for too long, he helps us in the short term while we wait for our other prospects to develop. Peckham has a tough road (if he gets qualified) but he could get back into the line up if he demonstrates to management he’s worked on the things that got him out of the line up.

  • A-Mc

    The only thing i worry about, is that the Oilers might need to trade something of value on the Offensive end, in order to insert a less-than-ideal body on the defensive end.

    If you’re going to make a sacrifice by trading say.. Sam Gagner .. for a guy like Hjalmarsson, he better fit well into the plan.

    If 3.5M were to come Edmonton’s way from Chicago, and Chicago needed atleast a 2.5M insert back, The only thing i can think of that would make sense is like Ryan Jones + Peckham for Hjalmarsson.

    Ideally i would rather the Oilers pickup 1 decent defender with out trading anyone for him, and hope that Fedun can make his way into the line up this year as well. Oiler Defensive prospects are fairly deep right now, so i dont know that I’d be moving a solid 3rd line RW line jonesy for anything D related at this point in time

      • A-Mc

        Are you saying the return has to be a high value Entry Level type guy? and/or a high draft pick?

        ie: Oilers 1st rounder next year for Hjalmarsson? I couldn’t see them giving up on Hjalmarsson for absolutely nothing.

        • My guess it is revolves around Gagner, who is set to get a contract probably in the $3M range.

          It seems like a steep price to pay though. I’d almost want another piece back for Gagner. I wonder if the Oilers could work something like Hjalmarsson and McNeill for Gagner and Musil.

          The other problem is that Gagner moving creates a hole at centre on the second line. Perhaps a second trade like Paajarvi for Dubinsky out of New York might be an option?

          It’ll take some work. This is where Tambo can prove he is worth the extension he signed.

          • A-Mc

            From what I’m hearing and reading, the idea behind putting Hjalmarsson up for trade, is to free up cap space for a few higher priced UFA’s they are looking at. Gagner is likely too expensive for a straight up trade.

            Sitting here playing the arm chair GM is tough because there are so many ??’s right now.

            Are the Oilers truly gunning for 1 or 2 of these Available Defensemen or are they waiting for prospect payoff?

            Can Taylor Hall move to Center? is that something they are looking at.

            Can Nail Yakupov play Left Wing? If he makes the team next year, where does he fit? I would argue Ryan Jones is likely a better 3rd line RW than Yakupov (Considering the 3rd line responsibilities).

            Do we trade Gagner for HJalmarsson, Put Hall at Center and Yakupov on the Left side of him? For this to work, there are a lot of “What If”s that would need to fall into place perfectly.

  • I really did love the pairing of Smid/Petry last year, so I’d have no problem with them replicating that with Hjalmarsson/Schultz and Whitney/Schultz. Could provide some stability and depth.

  • LOVED your suggestion of Tobias Enstrom a few weeks ago. Not sure if he’s available, but he’d probably be my #1 guy.

    Still, Niklas Hjalmarsson is capable, affordable, and not a bad option. I actually like the idea of him better than I do Keith Yandle (who played soft minutes, and was only fourth among Coyotes defensemen in ice time during the playoffs… huge red flags for a big ticket player).

    Other guys I’d inquire about if I were the Oilers: Nikita Nikitin (Columbus), Fedor Tyutin (Columbus), and free agents Michael Rozsival, and Bryan Allen. And of course, Justin Schultz.

  • vetinari

    To me, Hjalmarsson would be an upgrade over Peckham, Potter or Sutton on the backend. And in any event, he would be great insurance for when the injury bug inevitably strikes our defensive corps (such as when Smid gets hit by an asteroid or Schultz gets sideswiped by a zamboni driven by Jay Feaster or Taylor Hall uses his face to carve open a defenceman’s leg in the pre-game warm up).