Nov 10: Hjalmarsson has now officially signed a contract with HV71 for the rest of the season.
Oct 25: One of the most consistent defenders of his generation hung up the skates after the 2020-21 season, as Niklas Hjalmarsson decided that was it for his NHL career. With more than 800 games, 1,600 blocked shots, and three Stanley Cup championships in the books, there wasn’t much more for him to accomplish in professional hockey.
Except, maybe there is.
In a press release over the weekend, SHL club HV71 announced that Hjalmarsson would start training with the team and hopefully play with them for the rest of the season. The 35-year-old defenseman explained that he drives past the rink every day and couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to play for the club again.
After all, this is the organization that developed him as a youngster, and the one he made his professional debut with (back when it was still the Swedish Elite League) in 2004-05. Born less than an hour from the arena, it is something of a homecoming for the Chicago Blackhawks legend. Hjalmarsson left Swedish hockey back in 2007 to join the Blackhawks, and would quickly become one of the most trusted defensive defensemen in the league. By his first full season in 2009-10, he was already logging nearly 20 minutes a night and putting up blocked shot totals near the top of the league.
In those playoffs, when the young upstart Blackhawks were ready to compete for a Stanley Cup, he took on even more responsibility, and played 21 minutes a night en route to the championship – adding nine points and 54 blocks in 22 games. He would do similar things in the other two title runs, including averaging more than 26 minutes in 2015 as the third member of a defensive trio that was nearly impenetrable alongside Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
For Swedish hockey fans, getting to see Hjalmarsson play back home will be a treat, if it gets that far. If you listen to him, it might not even be a short stint. Hjalmarsson notes that he doesn’t know whether he’ll be with the team for two weeks, a year, or three years at this point – he’s just excited about getting back on the ice and competing.