General manager Stan Bowman said Monday that the Hawks will match the four-year, $14 million offer sheet the Sharks signed Hjalmarsson to last Friday.
"Niklas was a big part of our success last year," Bowman said. "He is part of our core that is going to be together for a long time. I'm happy for him. He's a quiet leader amongst our defensive group. I think he gets overshadowed maybe because we got some other superstars there. But he was really effective for us all year long.
"He's only going to get better. He's 23 years old. You add him to the mix of the other guys that are here, [Jonathan] Toews, [Patrick] Kane, [Marian] Hossa and Duncan Keith. We've got a lot of guys we're building this team around. So I'm happy for Niklas and I'm excited he's going to be with us for a while."
Bowman said "it was a surprise" to see a team extend an offer sheet, essentially because they don't happen too often. But he also maintained Hjalmarsson is big part of the Hawks' transition and puck-possession games. He wasn't about to let him slip away to a conference rival.
"We've been saying all along that our goal is to keep our core together," Bowman said. "We've been trying to hit that point that Niklas is part of that core. You win with defense. I think the success of our team is the fact that we have some very skilled forwards, but they also get the puck a lot. They don't have to chase it down because we got guys that can get them the puck. We want to keep that part of game intact."