Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is wasting little time tying up some of the key members of the defending Stanley Cup champions. That meant locking up a player many thought could be a casualty of Corey Crawford's recent contract extension.
Just days after inking Crawford, Bowman got Niklas Hjalmarsson's name on a five-year, $20.5 million extension Wednesday. Pierre LeBrun reported via Twitter that starting in 2014-15, Hjalmarsson will carry a reported cap hit of $4.1 million.
In the wake of Crawford's six-year, $36 million extension, there was a sense that the 26-year-old Swedish defenseman would be looking for his next contract elsewhere. Bowman not only avoided such a departure, but he signed Hjalmarsson to a pretty decent price to boot.
After being signed to an offer sheet by San Jose back in the summer of 2010, Hjalmarsson was retained by the 'Hawks with a four-year, $14 million deal. At the time it was a bit pricey, though Bowman has thrown things into more balance with the extension.
Another season like this past one could easily have netted Hjalmarsson over $5 million per season. What amounts to a slight raise in his current salary also slots him behind blue line big dogs Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
I like this signing very much. Hjalmarsson is not the offensive threat that Keith, Seabrook or Nick Leddy may be, but come playoff time he is a valuable commodity.
Hjalmarsson had arguably his best season in the Blackhawks sweater. In 46 games, he notched a pair of goals and eight assists and had a plus-15 skater rating, his highest as a pro. He is also signed through what should be his prime years.
Hjalmarsson should continue to develop into a solid piece of the defensive puzzle. This should come at a price that could be an absolute steal by the end of the deal.
Bowman has taken the bull by the horns in keeping this team together. Eschewing chasing big-name free agents this summer, he has turned his attention inward. As a result, most of Chicago's top-end talent is locked up and away from the lure of free agency.
Looming next season are possible extensions for Jonanthan Toews and Patrick Kane. If this past week is any indication, Bowman is taking a proactive approach to keeping his stars in town. That has to be seen as a good sign.