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2010 NHL Free Agency: Sharks sign Blackhawks RFA Niklas Hjalmarsson to a hefty offer sheet


So much for NHL GMs eschewing their inner Kevin Lowes so they don’t anger the Brian Burkes of the world.

The San Jose Sharks threw down a serious gauntlet on their Western Conference tormentors, signing Chicago Blackhawks restricted free agent defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a stunning four-year, $14 million offer sheet. (Source: TSN.)

Chicago has seven days to match the offer. If the team does not match it, they will receive San Jose’s first and third round picks in the 2011 NHL entry draft.

That’s a big raise for the defenseman with a funny last name (it would be a $3.5 million per year cap hit). Hjalmarsson impressed during the 2009-10 season, even though he took a backseat to players such as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. He played about 19:39 minutes per game in the regular season but saw a significant jump in the playoffs, going all the way to 21 minutes every contest (behind only Keith and Seabrook, actually).

I have to say, I wonder if the Sharks would have been able to get away with sending a more modest offer (even shaving a half million off per year) considering the fact that the Blackhawks are in such a bind. While this is just speculation on my part, I’d say it’s nearly unthinkable that Chicago would match this offer sheet.

In other words, Hjalmarsson and Dustin Penner might be offer sheet cousins in a week. While he can’t receive an offer sheet because he filed for salary arbitration, you have to wonder if Antti Niemi is on his way out too.