It’s probably an oversimplification to say this, but many hockey people believe that the Chicago Blackhawks essentially chose to keep defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson instead of goalie Antti Niemi after they won the Stanley Cup. There are some who aren’t sold on Niemi in San Jose, yet it’s interesting to note that CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers reports that Hjalmarsson and fellow expensive depth blueliner Steve Montador could be trade fodder this weekend.
The Blackhawks don’t need a major overhaul –- let’s remember this team is on a four-season playoff roll. But they do need to make changes to bolster what has become a predictable team. They need a stronger supporting cast. They need size on defense. That may mean giving up a player or two — a source indicated that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, who have a combined $6 million cap hit this coming season, could be possibilities. That may mean giving up a prized prospect and draft picks. It’s the price of winning –- and attaining impact players.
And, no, by “impact” we’re not talking about acquiring every break-the-bank superstar player out there. While the cap could increase to as much as $70 million, the Blackhawks have plenty of star status and big-money contracts. It’s more about finding those great characters, those great role players who have more than one year left in their NHL career. And it’s about finding them now.
Despite his versatility, the Montador signing was especially surprising the moment it happened. While Hjalmarsson’s upward trajectory seemed profound at the time that he signed his current deal, Montador seemed like the beneficiary of the Buffalo Sabres’ defensive troubles more than anything else in 2010-11.
Regardless, summer time seems to be the period when the Blackhawks purge cap-unfriendly defensemen. Do you think Hjalmarsson and Montador will follow in Brian Campbell’s footsteps – out the door – then?