Niklas Hjalmarsson Signs San Jose Sharks Offer Sheet: Will Blackhawks Match?

Michael WagnerSenior Analyst IJuly 9, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 09: Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks hoists the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime to win the Stanley Cup in Game Six of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Wachovia Center on June 9, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It seems as though the pain just keeps on coming for the Chicago Blackhawks, as the San Jose Sharks have signed second pairing defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet.

The offer sheet that Hjalmarsson signed is a four-year deal worth $14 million, a cap hit of $3.5 million.

Now the question becomes, will the Blackhawks match the Sharks' offer sheet, or do they just let Hjalmarsson go to their Western Conference foe?

If the Blackhawks do decide to match the offer, then in all likelihood they would be unable to keep goaltender Antti Niemi on the roster, as Hjalmarsson's deal would take the 'Hawks to the brink of the cap.

If they decide to let Hjalmarsson join the Sharks and not match the offer, then the 'Hawks will have a gigantic hole to fill on the blue line with only Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Brian Campbell remaining.

As a Chicago Blackhawks fan, this is a concerning situation either way, as the 'Hawks will either need to find another solid second pairing defenseman or another starting goaltender, neither of which grow on trees.

In my opinion, I think the 'Hawks will match this offer sheet because without Hjalmarsson they will have an extremely depleted defensive corps and have no one that is NHL-ready to restock it.

Plus in a year or two, Hjalmarsson being paid $3.5 million will look like a bargain compared to what defensemen are getting paid these days—see Dan Hamhuis.

In any case, it looks as though the Chicago Blackhawks have even more to worry about than most of us thought, and if Hjalmarsson goes, the 'Hawks might not be the contender we thought they were 24 hours ago.