With one of the most available salary-cap space, the Los Angeles Kings trading for Niklas Hjalmarsson could have enormous benefits.
As some of the 24 teams in the playoff bubble began their friendly exhibitions on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Kings have an abundance of time to figure out their next course of action. General Manager Rob Blake has already made it clear that the team is not likely to spend big this offseason, which takes them out of the Taylor Hall sweepstakes.
However, the Arizona Coyotes could still be in play, but as a trade partner. With Ben Hutton‘s impending free agency and the team needing to bolster the left side of the blue line, the Kings could work out a trade for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
The 33-year-old from Sweden is a three-time Stanley Cup champion from his days with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he was a cap casualty in June 2017, traded to the Coyotes. He’s been extended twice, with the most recent contract coming at a $5M AAV and expiring after the 2020-2021 season.
With a flat salary cap of $81.5M next year, the Coyotes have approximately $3.5 million to use how they see fit. However, that’s going to come particularly challenging, especially with notable free agents in Hall, Carl Soderberg, and Vinnie Hinostroza, among others.
Hjalmarsson was limited to just 27 games last year due to a broken fibula only days into the season. He returned in mid-January, scoring one goal with four assists. With just two goals in three seasons with Arizona, Hjalmarsson’s contract is looking worse every day.
Again, he was limited, but this past season was statistically one of his worst since the 2008-2009 campaign. Hjalmarsson chipped in ten assists and a +8 rating last year while also tallying a team-high 187 blocked shots. While not the most physical defenseman, he has always been terrific, putting his body in front of the puck, which would be a welcome addition along the left side.
The Coyotes, who recently saw general manager John Chayka resign, are likely to keep one of the three aforementioned free agents. With the preference being Hall, Hjalmarsson could be a cap casualty with the potential for the Kings to acquire a couple of young prospects or draft picks for taking on his salary as well.
He’s not the same player he once was, but with just one year left on his deal, the Kings taking on his salary could retrieve additional draft compensation or prospects to keep stocking up. It’s something to consider, assuming the Coyotes are willing to go down that road.