Blackhawks say they'll match Sharks' offer for Hjalmarsson Staff

7/12/2010 5:09:56 PM

The Chicago Blackhawks aren't letting restricted free agent defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson get away, as the club announced on Monday that they will match the a US$14-million, four-year offer sheet he signed with the San Jose Sharks last week.

The Blackhawks had seven days to match the offer, which was done on Friday. If they didn't match, they would have received San Jose's first- and third-round picks in next year's NHL draft as compensation.

Hjalmarsson, 23, helped Chicago sweep the Sharks in the Western Conference final last season and then beat Philadelphia to win the Stanley Cup. He had a goal and seven assists in the post-season, including two assists against the Sharks.

He was third on the team with a plus-9 rating in the playoffs, while averaging just over 21 minutes of ice time per game.

Hjalmarsson had two goals and 15 assists in 77 regular season games. That was his first full season in the NHL, having played sparingly for the Blackhawks the previous two years. He has three goals and 18 assists in 111 career games.

General Manager Stan Bowman addressed Chicago's precarious salary cap situation stating, "We've been saying all along our goal is to keep our core together. We've been trying to hit that point and Niklas is part of that core. I think you win with defence. I think the success of our team is that we've got some very skilled forwards, but they also get the puck a lot. We want to keep that part of our game intact."