Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates with the puck against the Boston Bruins in Game Three of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 17, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.
(June 16, 2013 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

Hjalmarsson agrees to five-year, $20.5 million extension with Chicago


Niklas Hjalmarsson has already won the Stanley Cup twice with the Chicago Blackhawks and the team wants to keep him around as they try to become a modern dynasty. That’s the backdrop as the Blackhawks announced that Hjalmarsson has agreed to a five-year extension.

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the deal is for $20.5 million with a $4.1 million average annual value.

Hjalmarsson still has one season at $3.5 million left on his old deal, so he’s now locked up through the 2018-19 campaign. Although he’s never recorded more than 17 points in a single season, Hjalmarsson is a solid defender who’s willing to sacrifice his body by blocking shots. He averaged over 20 minutes per game in each of his last two campaigns.

The 26-year-old defenseman becomes the sixth Chicago Blackhawks player signed through at least 2016-17. Forwards Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Bryan Bickell as well as fellow blueliner Duncan Keith are also on that list. Recently goaltender Corey Crawford joined them with a six-year, $36 million extension.

Chicago is in a potentially tricky spot from a cap perspective. With Hjalmarsson signed, they now have about $36.6 million in cap space dedicated to just seven players in 2015-16 and that doesn’t include Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane as both are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2015.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.