Blackhawks pull off stunner, trade Niklas Hjalmarsson to Coyotes

Blackhawks pull off stunner, trade Niklas Hjalmarsson to Coyotes

Niklas Hjalmarsson has been part of the Blackhawks’ renaissance since the rebuild began in the mid-2000s, a longtime steady presence on the blue line who has had some clutch moments in the Blackhawks’ three Stanley Cup runs. But on Friday, the player with one of the Blackhawks’ best contracts was sent packing.

Hjalmarsson was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and center Laurent Dauphin on Friday morning. With Hjalmarsson, the Blackhawks give up a tremendous defenseman with a winning pedigree.

“Niklas’ contributions to the three Stanley Cup championship teams are well known but his dependability as a teammate, selfless attitude and the way he represented the Chicago Blackhawks on and off the ice are what made him such a beloved member of the organization,” said Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He made his debut in Chicago in 2008 and quietly established himself as one of the toughest competitors in franchise history. We wish he and his family continued success.”

The 30-year-old defenseman has two years remaining on his current contract, which carries a $4.1 million cap hit. The 24-year-old Murphy has five years remaining on his current contract ($3.85 million cap hit). Dauphin is in the final year of his current entry-level contract ($745,000). According to CapFriendly, if Dauphin plays for the Rockford IceHogs this season, the Blackhawks can save $250,000 in cap space.

But this isn’t about money as much as the Blackhawks needing to get younger on defense. Murphy has played all four of his NHL seasons with the Coyotes. Last season he had two goals and 15 assists in 77 games.

Still, giving up Hjalmarsson is a tough one. Hjalmarsson has been a strong, steady presence for the Blackhawks. He once again led the team in blocked shots (181). Plenty of bumps, bruises and pain come with that job description but despite that, Hjalmarsson hasn’t missed much time. Since the 2012-13 season Hjalmarsson has missed just 12 games, and just four of those have been due to injury (suspected back injury last season).

The Blackhawks’ defense looked older and slower in their brief postseason run against the Nashville Predators, and they certainly have to start moving toward the future. But with Hjalmarsson playing at the level he has the past few seasons, his absence will hurt.

Blackhawks hungry for revenge against Predators after 'embarrassing' loss in previous meeting

Blackhawks hungry for revenge against Predators after 'embarrassing' loss in previous meeting

NASHVILLE  — After missing 11 games with a groin injury, Connor Murphy has been cleared to return Saturday night when the Blackhawks take on the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

The Blackhawks were 4-5-2 in Murphy’s absence and one of those games included a 3-0 loss to the Predators on Oct. 29, which was a one-sided contest from start to finish. Nick Bonino had a hat trick and the Blackhawks were outshot 51-20.

Since then, the Blackhawks have picked up 10 out of a possible 14 points and made a schematic change that has opened up the offense. They're playing with a lot more jump and the Blackhawks are hoping it translates to a more competitive game.

"It's a good challenge for us," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We were not very good that game. We didn't give ourselves a chance. We got a lot more confidence now and now we got to show where we're at. Doesn't mean we're going to win the game but we need to perform better."

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne called the previous matchup "one of the for-sure easier shutouts" of his NHL career. He has given up 16 goals over his last four starts since blanking the Blackhawks after allowing only 14 goals in his first eight appearances.

The Blackhawks are fully aware of Rinne’s comments and they're looking for revenge this time around against a Predators team that has lost five of their last six games, including three in a row (0-2-1).

"We know what he said, so take it any way you want and be ready to play tonight," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously the way we played last time in here wasn't acceptable and pretty embarrassing loss, so there's some truth to those comments. We've got to come back and respond."

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Franchise-altering Marian Hossa named to Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Franchise-altering Marian Hossa named to Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Throughout the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Chicago will be unveiling its Blackhawks All-Decade Team. The roster will feature the 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and two goaltenders that made the biggest impact on the franchise from the 2010 through 2019 seasons.

Perhaps nobody said it better than Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough: “The Chicago Blackhawks do not win a Stanley Cup, let alone three, without Marian Hossa.”

Hossa’s arrival in free agency in the summer of 2009 sent a message to the rest of the league that the Blackhawks were not only a destination for elite players, but also that they were a franchise all-in on trying to win Stanley Cups. “It’s not just because of his performance on the ice,” said McDonough. “Sometimes culturally it’s just to be in the same locker room with a guy who comports himself professionally, knows how to win, great work ethic, terrific habits.”

Hossa had a presence within the Blackhawks’ dressing room and immediately earned the respect of his teammates. Not only does he receive lots of credit for the franchise’s culture change, but many credit his influence on Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as a major reason why they became the NHL superstars they are today. Because of that presence, there is certainly no coincidence that since Hossa’s departure, the Blackhawks have not seen the playoffs. “You can’t replace Marian Hossa,” said Stan Bowman before the start of the season. “I think we’ve certainly felt it the last couple years. He was such an important part of our team. We never would have won any of our Stanley Cups without Marian’s contributions.” 

Marian Hossa spent eight seasons in Chicago, amassing 415 points in 534 games with the Blackhawks. In the playoffs, Hossa racked up 73 points in 107 games and the Blackhawks reached the postseason in all eight of his seasons in Chicago. For his contributions to Chicago both on and off the ice, he makes the Blackhawks All-Decade Team as the second line right winger.

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