Has Niklas Hjalmarsson Played His Last Game With The Blackhawks?

By Randy Holt

An elimination, whether it comes in the regular season or in the playoffs, is always followed by a ton of scenarios, as far as potential moves go, as we all wait to see what the summer holds.

The Chicago Blackhawks‘ early exit from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs have plenty of fans examining potential scenarios and situations for guys currently on the roster, given that we don’t know exactly what the free agent and trade markets are going to look like in a couple of months.

One of those potential, and very possible, scenarios is the departure of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.

At this point, I’m surprised he’s actually still with the team. I expected Hjammer to be traded last summer, but Stan Bowman elected to trade Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers instead.

Hjalmarsson is one of the more overpaid players in the league, making $3.5 million a year for barely more than being a shot blocker on the blue line. Not that that’s his fault. Bowman elected to match the offer sheet from the San Jose Sharks. This one’s on Bowman.

Hjalmarsson isn’t terrible, but there isn’t much he contributes to this Hawks blue line. He blocks a lot of shots. That’s about it. He doesn’t put up too many points out there and he’s not very physical, with just 42 hits this season. He also demonstrates an incredible inability to get the puck out of the defensive zone.

As of right now, it’s likely that the Blackhawks are going to re-sign Johnny Oduya. That’s not set in stone, but assuming they do, your top four defenseman are set, with Oduya, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Nick Leddy. Hjalmarsson hasn’t turned into that top four defenseman that many hoped he would. And that means it’s time to cut him loose.

The trade rumors will start trickling out once someone hoists the Stanley Cup and the summer officially begins, but you can bet Hjalmarsson’s name will be out there. Perhaps a team like San Jose could be interested in his services?

We’ll see what  happens, but I’d be very surprised to see Hjalmarsson donning that no. 4 sweater in Chicago next season.

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