The Chicago Blackhawks report this morning the re-signing of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a five-year contract extension. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports it’s worth $4.1 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks aren’t wasting time locking up next summer’s key potential free agents. Earlier this week they re-signed goalie Corey Crawford to a six-year deal. Today, Hjalmarsson gets a five-year extension.
He’s in the final year of a four-year, $14 million contract, at a cap hit of $3.5 million, so the raise to $4.1 million isn’t extreme. He’s become a reliable, gritty shut-down defenseman for the Blackhawks, capable of logging over 23 minutes per game, and was a crucial part of their two Stanley Cup championships.
Critics might question paying the 26-year-old Hjarlmarsson that much, as it now pushes the Blackhawks payroll for 2014-15 to nearly $60 million invested in 14 players. Even with the salary cap expected to rise to $70 million for that season, it won’t leave much to fill out the remainder of the roster. Fortunately for the Blackhawks, all their core players are under contract.