The Chicago Blackhawks have come to terms on a five-year contract extension with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, the team announced on Wednesday morning. Hjalmarsson is entering the final year of a four-year, $14 million contract that carries an annual average value of $3.5 million against the salary cap, according to CapGeek.com. He would have become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The extension will keep the 26-year-old defenseman under contract for the next six-years, as the deal expires after the 2018-19 season. Hjlamarsson's new deal will carry an annual average value of $4.1 million against the salary cap, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.
This is the second extension Chicago handed out this week, as goaltender Corey Crawford received a six-year, $36 million deal on Monday. The decision to extend Hjalmarsson solidifies the defensive unit in front of Crawford, as Duncan Keith is signed through the 2022-23 season and Brent Seabrook is under contract through 2015-16.
Of course, the financial landscape is an important component to consider. The salary cap is an unknown variable in this equation and while it is expected to rise over the coming years, the level to which it will extend is still to be determined. Considering captain Jonathan Toews and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Kane are both due new deals following the 2014-15 season, the Blackhawks will seemingly need a considerable amount of space to lockup both players to long-term agreements.
By retaining Hjalmarsson at a friendly cap hit, it allows the Blackhawks to proceed into the future with such a plan in place.
In 306 career regular season games, Hjalmarsson has averaged 19:05 of ice-time, while recording 108 total penalty minutes and registering 56 points. He was selected with the No. 108 overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago and was a contributor to the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup Championships in 2010 and 2013.