According to Arizona Coyotes Insider Craig Morgan, another member of the recent Blackhawks Cup winning teams is retiring from the NHL: Niklas Hjalmarsson. Unlike Brent Seabrook earlier this season, Hjalmarsson is not expected to formally announce his plans to stop playing hockey in the NHL.
Per source, Coyotes UFA D Niklas Hjalmarsson is retiring. I don't expect a formal announcement or statement from Nik. Those who have covered him or known him know that is not his style.— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) July 25, 2021
He was an integral part of 3 Stanley Cups in Chicago and the consummate pro on/off the ice. pic.twitter.com/b3GUVwGWa9
Hjalmarsson was drafted by the Blackhawks as a fourth-round pick in the 2005 NHL Draft and spent the next four years honing his skills in the Swedish junior leagues and in the AHL with the Rockford Icehogs. He made his NHL debut on Feb. 28, 2008 in a loss to the Anaheim Ducks and became a regular on the Blackhawks blueline from then onward.
Hjalmarsson ultimately played 623 regular season games and 128 playoff games with the Blackhawks and was one of only seven players to be part of all three Stanley Cup victories in 2010, 2013, and 2015. He added another 198 regular season and 9 playoff games with the Arizona Coyotes.
Although not known for his offense output — he never had more than 30 points in a single season — Hjalmarsson did have some important assists in his career. During the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, a slapshot Hjalmarsson took was redirected by teammate Andrew Ladd to give the Blackhawks a 3–2 lead in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The team went on to win the game 4-3 in overtime to win the Blackhawks’ first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
And who can forget the goal that wasn’t during Game 7 of the Western Conferences semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings in 2013? With the game tied late in regulation, Hjalmarsson had his goal with 1:47 left disallowed due to a referee (ridiculously) calling offsetting penalties on Brandon Saad and Kyle Quincey 150 feet away from the goal. Luckily, Seabrook went on to score in overtime to send the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final, but it always felt like Hjalmarsson was robbed.
Ultimately, it was Hjalmarsson’s defense that was made him such a vital piece to three Stanley Cups. Whether it was his excellent positioning, tight gap control, or shot blocking, he was arguably the best defensive defenseman in the league during most of his career.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, reportedly retiring from hockey, was the best defensive defenceman of the analytics era and should be remembered as one of the best stay-at-home blueliners of all time. #Yotes #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/2eFuSIlGqx— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 25, 2021
Playing behind Duncan Keith and Seabrook when with the Blackhawks often meant Hjalmarsson was underrated outside of Chicago, but we all know how important he was to the success of the team during the “One Goal” era.