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Blackhawks trade Niklas Hjalmarsson to Coyotes in pre-draft stunner

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Chicago offloads some precious cap space.

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Per weeks of insider rumblings, two things seemed clear heading into the NHL draft on Friday.

  • The Blackhawks, hosting the draft in Chicago, wanted to make a trade. Possibly to move up in the draft.
  • The Coyotes have been busy on the phones.

We didn’t know the two were connected, though. They were, as the Chicago Blackhawks traded defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes in a massive pre-draft trade.

In exchange, the Blackhawks receive defenseman Connor Murphy and center Laurent Dauphin.

Hjalmarsson, 30, has been a part of the Blackhawks’ core that’s led them to three Stanley Cups since 2010. He also sports a $4.1 million cap hit through 2019-20, which means he was a prime candidate for the cap-crunched Blackhawks to move.

According to CapFriendly, the Blackhawks were over the cap before the move. Marian Hossa’s impending retirement (?) would’ve alleviated things next year, but not soon enough for moves this offseason.

Arizona had plenty of room and the need to upgrade their defensive core. Hjalmarsson will do that. It’s also the latest in a week of upheaval in Arizona: Andrew Barroway became the sole owner, captain Shane Doan departed and coach Dave Tippett resigned on Thursday night.

Dauphin has appeared in 32 games with the Coyotes, totaling three goals and four points. Murphy played in 77 games last year, racking up 17 points and 201 hits.