Sharks Sign Restricted Free Agent Niklas Hjalmarsson to Offer Sheet
That's why it was quite a surprise on Friday to see TSN report that the San Jose Sharks signed restricted free agent defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson of the Chicago Blackhawks to a four-year, $14 million offer sheet.
Chicago, of course, eliminated the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. Hey, if you can't beat them, poach them.
The Blackhawks will now have one week to match the offer. If they don't -- or can't -- they will receive San Jose's first and third round picks in 2011. It's going to be awfully difficult -- perhaps impossible? -- for Chicago to match seeing as how its cap situation has been a well-documented disaster this offseason, leading to the trades of Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd.
According to CapGeek, Chicago has $55 million committed to 14 players for this upcoming season, leaving it just $3.6 million in available cap space to fill out the remainder of its roster. The Blackhawks still have to sign starting goaltender Antti Niemi, who filed for salary arbitration earlier this week.
Now they face the harsh reality of losing Hjalmarsson, a 23-year-old rearguard that played 77 games last season, logging almost 20 minutes of ice-time per night, making him one of Chicago's top-four defensemen. He tallied two goals and 15 assists during the regular season, and was even more valuable during the postseason, averaging 21 minutes per game (third on the team) and scoring one goal to go with seven assists.
Needless to say, if the Blackhawks don't match the offer, it's going to be a blow to their defense.
Some of the bigger offer sheets that have been signed in recent years include Ryan Kesler (Philadelphia, which was matched by Vancouver) and David Backes (Vancouver, which was matched by St. Louis). And then there was the summer of Kevin Lowe during the 2007 offseason, when the Oilers general manager made gigantic offers for Thomas Vanek (which was matched by Buffalo) and Dustin Penner (which was not matched by Anaheim, leading to an epic -- and very public -- feud with then-Ducks general manager Brian Burke).