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Sharks Sign Hawks RFA Niklas Hjalmarsson To Offer Sheet

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It's something that just typically isn't done, but the Sharks have broken the apparent unwritten rule by signing Blackhawks restricted free agent defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a four-year, $14 million offer sheet.

The Blackhawks now have seven days to match the Sharks offer. If they choose not to, the Sharks will pass a first round pick and a third round pick to Chicago as compensation.

There's doubt on whether or not Chicago can match the offer without getting rid of another piece. They're already in dire salary cap straits and our Kings blog, Jewels From The Crown, doesn't believe the Blackhawks can match without dumping Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Brent Seabrook or Antti Niemi.

With Hjalmarsson at $3.5MM and Niemi at $4MM (which is a reasonable expectation of the outcome of arbitration, if you ask me), promoting the cheapest players available to fill out a minimum roster of 20, and burying Huet in the minors at the end of the summer, the Hawks will find themselves $1.13MM over the cap.

Bowman can of course gamble that the arbiter will give Niemi closer to $3MM. But he will have to decide on Hjalmarsson before the Niemi award, so that's quite a gamble, given: In order to match Hjalmarsson and keep Niemi@$4MM, the Hawks will have to let go of at least $1.7MM in cap hit (the overage plus $600K to replace the player the Hawks get rid of).

There is no one left on the roster who makes that amount or near it. The eligible candidates are Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland or Brent Seabrook. And there's no way that's going to happen. The Hawks aren't trading those guys.

So the only option for Bowman is to choose between Hjalmarsson and Niemi. And given Bowman's lust for high picks lately, I am going to assume he's going to let Hjalmarsson walk and take the compensation. I would bet on it actually. So add Hjalmarsson to the list of cap casualties. The hold-overs from the cup run are now numbered at eleven. Now what did I say months ago?

For more from the Chicago perspective, check out Second City Hockey, where they're running with the headline, "If You Can't Beat Us, Steal Us?" Also hit SB Nation Chicago, Fear The Fin and SB Nation Bay Area.