July 10, 2010 // 9:57am ET
Blackhawks must decide on Hjalmarsson

Reports out of Chicago aren't positive for Blackhawks fans, as the team might be forced to let defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson walk and become a member of the San Jose Sharks.

Yesterday, Hjalmarsson signed a four-year, $14 million offer sheet with the Sharks, giving the Blackhawks seven days to match it. If they don't, the Hawks will receive San Jose's first-round and third-round draft picks in 2011.

"Chicago did a lot of moves to put themselves in position to match this offer," Kevin Epp, Hjalmarsson's agent told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Maybe they will."

Assuming the Hawks get goalie Cristobal Huet's $5.65 million cap hit off the books by sending him to the AHL or allowing him to play in Europe next season, the Hawks have approximately $9.2 million in available cap space.

It remains possible the Blackhawks match Hjalmarsson's offer and pay him $3.5 million per season, but the team must also re-sign restricted free agent goalie Antti Niemi, who filed for arbitration, and five other players.

Contract talks between the Hawks and Niemi haven't started yet, but those are expected to begin shortly.

"Once (the Hawks) figure out what the playing field is we can talk and try to figure out if there's a long-term deal that makes sense and if not, is there a short-term deal that makes sense?" Niemi's agent, Bill Zito, told the Chicago Tribune. "If not, then you move forward."

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has indicated that he does not plan on losing Hjalmarsson or Niemi this summer.

Tight against the salary cap, the Blackhawks have already traded away Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and Colin Fraser to free up cap space.

[ From the Editor ]
Visit David Pagnotta's TWITTER page for frequent comments and updates on free agency.


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