Following a disastrous 2019 season, the Florida Panthers will need more reinforcements defensively. Should the Cats negotiate a potential trade with the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson?
To say the Florida Panthers struggled defensively last season would be a mere understatement. The Cats established a franchise record for most goals allowed in a single season. This was primarily because of below average defense and inconsistent goaltending.
The Panthers can easily rectify their defensive woes by simply acquiring a proven, top-four defenseman either through free agency or trade.
A player who would make the most sense for the Florida Panthers would be three-time Stanley Cup winning defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. The 31-year-old native of Sweden has two years remaining on his current contract which pays him $5 million annually.
Considering the Coyotes are still in the midst of a rebuilding stage, they could potentially move the veteran defenseman if given a decent offer.
Quenneville played a large role in Hjalmarsson’s development and was groomed into a premier top-four defenseman in Chicago’s system.
In turn, Hjalmarsson helped guide the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups before being shipped off to the Arizona Coyotes during the offseason of 2017.
Essentially, Hjalmarsson was viewed as one of the best all-around defenseman during the Chicago Blackhawks’ dynasty. In 623 NHL games with the Hawks, Hjalmarsson produced a respectable statistical slash line of 23G, 120A, for 143 points.
More impressively, Niklas recorded a phenomenal plus/minus rating of +109, along with a sensational 1,186 blocked shots and 329 total hits.
In essence, Hjalmarsson established himself as a prototypical shutdown defenseman; one who was exceptional on the penalty kill and could block multiple shots on a nightly basis.
Additionally, Hjalmarsson rarely turns over the puck, averaging under 50 giveaways per season during his remarkable ten-year career with the Hawks. Ultimately, he continued playing superb defense with the Coyotes following the offseason trade.
Over the past two seasons with the Coyotes, Hjalmarsson appeared in 130 NHL contests, recording 19 points as well as a +5 rating.
As well, Hjalmarsson also registered a whopping 305 blocked shots while averaging 20 minutes of ice time per game.
Essentially, Hjalmarsson is regarded as a highly reliable defenseman and would instantly stabilize the blue line of any NHL team. Although the cost to acquire Hjalmarsson will not come cheap, the Florida Panthers should attempt to obtain the steady blue liner via trade.
If acquired by the Panthers, Head Coach Joel Quenneville would immediately pencil in Hjalmarsson on the top-four defense unit.
The connection between Quenneville and Hjalmarsson could play a massive role in a potential trade. This is largely because Hjalmarsson would be required to waive his no-trade clause in order to successfully facilitate a trade to Sunrise, Florida.
The asking price for Hjalmarsson would likely involve a top-tier prospect (i.e. Owen Tippett or Serron Noel) as well as a couple of mid-round draft picks (2nd and/or 3rd rounders). Since the Cats are in win-now mode, General Manager Dale Tallon should part with the appropriate assets for two quality seasons of Nik Hjalmarsson.
Hjalmarsson is an ideal, fairly inexpensive defensemen who could help improve Florida’s defense tremendously. The Swedish native could partner with either Mike Matheson, Keith Yandle, or Aaron Ekblad, forming a formidable top-four unit on defense for the Panthers.
Ultimately, Hjalmarsson is undoubtedly a proven winner in the NHL (3x Champ) and could potentially help Quenneville and the talented Cats win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.