When Erik Johnson got injured in the playoffs, it became very obvious that the Colorado Avalanche needed another veteran defender who could excel in a shut down role. With an aging Ian Cole not getting the job done when asked to expand his role, Joe Sakic’s team had a very clear hole in their depth chart. Now, it looks as though Sakic is trying to fill that hole through the trade market.
This week, rumors started to swirl that the Arizona Coyotes will be looking to sell off most of the veteran players in an attempt to get younger and cheaper. One of those veterans that has already been connect to the Avalanche is Niklas Hjalmarsson.
At 33-years old, Hjalmarsson is a veteran defender who has one year left on his contract that carries a cap hit of $5m. He will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, so it makes sense that the Coyotes would look to move him for an asset or two as they look to re-build under new general manager Bill Armstrong.
Having produced only 24 points over the last three seasons, Hjalmarsson is not going to make any sort of significant contribution in the offensive zone - but that’s not what the Avalanche would need him for. With an abundance of offensively adept defenders already in their lineup, Hjalmarsson would be brought in to shut down the opposition’s top line and contribute to the penalty kill. Hjalmarsson is a defense-only defender who can play both sides of the ice and bring a level of physicality in front of the net that the Avalanche need. In essence, he’s a better version of Ian Cole.
After suffering a leg injury, Hjalmarsson only played 27 games during the 2019-20 regular season. He returned to health for the playoffs and was a big reason why the Coyotes were able to win their play-in series against Nashville.
With an inflated salary cap hit and pending UFA status, Hjalmarsson likely wouldn’t cost the Avalanche too much in a trade. Looking to cut costs, the Coyotes would most likely be looking for picks and/or prospects in exchange for the shut down defender.
One other wrinkle is that Hjalmarsson has a No Movement Clause in his contract, meaning that he would have to approve any trade. That said, it’s hard to imagine any player turning down a move to a Stanley Cup contender like the Avalanche.
Though it is only speculation at this point, team’s interest in Hjalmarsson aligns with the belief that the Avalanche are not ready to have 2019 fourth overall pick Bo Byram as a full time member of the lineup next season. It also adds fuel to the rumors that the team is shopping restricted free agent defenseman Nikita Zadorov.