Coyotes trade for Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson

Jun 23, 2017, 9:11 AM | Updated: 4:05 pm
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, left, of Sweden, congratulates goalie Corey Crawf...

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, left, of Sweden, congratulates goalie Corey Crawford after an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Denver. The Blackhawks won 6-4. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Coyotes secured a long-needed piece on Friday morning, just hours before the 2017 NHL Draft, when they acquired Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in exchange for right-handed defenseman Connor Murphy and minor league center Laurent Dauphin.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka called him the perfect partner for Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the right side of team’s top pairing, filling a hole the Coyotes have been trying to fill for five seasons.

“If God would have made him right-handed he would’ve been the perfect fit for OEL,” Chayka quipped of the left-handed Hjalmarsson. “We’ll deal with the left shot.”

The 30-year-old Hjalmarsson has a decade of NHL experience to his name, all in Chicago. The former fourth-round pick in 2005, Hjalmarsson has 143 total points to his name over those 10 seasons. He was one of seven players to be a part of Chicago’s 2010, 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup champion teams. He has two years left on a contract with an average annual value of $4.1 million.

“It’s a guy that we targeted for a while now,” Chayka said at the NHL Draft.

Hjalmarsson is a terrific defensive player and one of the league’s elite shot-blockers, but he also possesses underrated puck-moving skills. Hjalmarsson is left-handed but played a lot on the right side for Chicago and is comfortable there.

“I just think with Oliver, what makes him special is him playing with the puck and his offensive of the game, the way he makes plays,” Chayka said. “Hjalmarsson is an elite defender; one of the best. He kind of covers up and allows Oliver to do his thing.”

Hjalmarsson and Ekman-Larsson played together at the World Cup and were Olympic teammate. There is no salary retained in the deal.

Murphy, 24, was a first-round pick for Arizona in 2011. In his four years playing for the Coyotes, he had 49 points. Th Coyotes tried playing him with Ekman-Larsson, with some success, but he was not viewed internally as a top-pairing defenseman

“He had all the intangible you’d ever want in a player,” Chayka said. “You have to give to get in this league.”

The 22-year-old Dauphin played in 32 total games over his two seasons for Arizona. He has four career points and was viewed largely as a fourth-line center prospect.

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