Niklas Hjalmarsson on leaving Blackhawks: ‘Pretty weird feeling’

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Niklas Hjalmarsson won three Stanley Cups in his 10-year Blackhawks career. (AP Photo)

Niklas Hjalmarsson has a Twitter account, but he’s not the type of guy who spends his offseason scouring hockey websites for rumors and speculation. So it wasn’t until his agent called him up and asked him to submit a list of 10 teams to which he’d be willing to accept a trade that he knew his time in Chicago was really up.

“That’s when it actually hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore, which was a pretty weird feeling,” Hjalmarsson said. “A lot of emotions. It still feels a little strange knowing that you’re not going to put the Hawks jersey on. It’s going to take some time to get used to that thought.”

Hjalmarsson went from the NHL’s upper echelon to the league basement when he was dealt Friday to the Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin. The Coyotes are in a long rebuild, they don’t have a coach, they don’t have a captain and their arena situation in Glendale, Arizona, is tenuous at best.

But when he sat down with his wife, Eliina, to pick 10 places they’d be OK with, Arizona was on the list. It helped that fellow Swede and friend Oliver Ekman-Larsson is likely to be his defensive partner on the Coyotes’ top pair.

“I obviously wanted to play the full length of my contract in Chicago. That’s why you sign contracts,” he said. “But there are things you can’t control. You kind of have to roll with the punches, and Arizona was one of the teams on my list.”

The Coyotes had the third-worst record in the league and haven’t made the playoffs since 2012, when they beat the Blackhawks in the first round and reached the Western Conference final. Hjalmarsson is well aware that he’s going into a complete rebuilding situation, and while he’s sad to leave Chicago, he’s embracing the challenge.

“I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, and it’s been 10 unbelievable years,” he said. “I would never think I would win three Stanley Cups. And hopefully, I can get one more, please, before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, and I enjoyed every single year playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled and had a great time. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity down in Arizona and create some fun, new memories.”

Welcome back

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, the original architect of the Hawks’ modern era, received a huge ovation Friday night.

“It was really special,” he said. “I’m still taken aback, to tell you the truth. It was incredible. I never expected it. There were a lot of positives about what happened in Chicago. It was overwhelming. On the street or anywhere I go in Chicago, it seems people are thanking me, and that makes me feel terrific.”

Roster report

The Hawks have until -Monday to tender qualifying offers to restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Stan Bowman wouldn’t commit either way, but both are expected to be back.

Record numbers

The NHL said that the two-day event drew a record 47,514 fans to the draft and the Fan Fest outside the United Center.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.



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