Niklas Hjalmarsson has spent his entire professional career with the Chicago Blackhawks, but with one phone call, everything changed.
The former Hawks defenseman said he hadn't really been reading trade rumors online, but it didn't take long for him to realize his time in Chicago could soon come to an end.
"When my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said during a conference call Saturday, CSN reports. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”
Before the NHL Entry Draft Friday, the Blackhawks made a massive splash as they traded Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes.
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A member of three Stanley Cup championship teams with the Blackhawks, Hjalmarsson scored 23 goals and dished out 120 assists as a member of the team, and his shot-blocking prowess and hard-nosed attitude endeared him to teammates and fans alike.
“Niklas’ contributions to the three Stanley Cup championship teams are well known but his dependability as a teammate, selfless attitude and the way he represented the Chicago Blackhawks on and off the ice are what made him such a beloved member of the organization,” Chicago Blackhawks Senior Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman said in a statment. “He made his debut in Chicago in 2008 and quietly established himself as one of the toughest competitors in franchise history. We wish he and his family continued success.”
In exchange, the Blackhawks received defenseman Connor Murphy and center Laurent Dauphin.
Still, as Hjalmarsson heads for his new team, a lot of questions remain.
That's because the Coyotes have already lost multiple players and their head coach.
“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”
While he will see familiar faces in former Hawk Antti Raanta and his one-time Sochi teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Hjalmarsson looked back on his time in Chicago fondly.
“I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years," he said. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”