Chicago’s future just got a whole lot better looking. Mr. Everything-You-Need-Me-To-Be, Patrick Sharp has signed a 5-year extension with the Blackhawks. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the cap hit is $5.9 million per year.
But instead of focusing on Patrick Sharp’s contributions to the team, since Sam Fels over at Second City Hockey already did a fine job of it, I’m going to concentrate on what this likely means in regards to future moves.
First off, a big time 2nd line center (or power forward) is now definitely not in the Hawks plans, unless they “rent” one (a UFA with an expiring contract) prior to the trade deadline this season or, unlikely as it is, sign Chris Drury to a 1-year deal this summer. And whether they choose to give up the players, prospects and/or draft picks for a trade deadline rental really depends on the development of Marcus Kruger at center or if Olesz/Stalberg/Smith/Morin are getting the job done at LW. Moving Sharp to center for playoffs worked in 2010, there’s little reason it shouldn’t work again. If the Hawks want to go the rental route, they have the bodies to trade, as you’ll see below.
With an overload of talented LW prospects in Jeremy Morin, Kyle Beach, Brandon Saad, Ludvig Rensfeldt, and Phillipe Paradis, promising centers Marcus Kruger, Mark McNeill, Brandon Pirri, and Chris DiDomenico, and power forwards Kevin and Jimmy Hayes, the Hawks really have no need to look elsewhere to fill in the top lines in the future. They will need to (and can) rely on cheaper, homegrown talent to fill out the roster.
Inexpensive contracts for Kruger (RFA), Bickell (UFA), Leddy (RFA), and Stalberg (UFA) all come due in 2013. The Hawks will need to make some choices and give out a couple of raises to these current support players, and by then Leddy and Kruger could be considered part of the always evolving core. With so many big contracts already on the books, rumblings will again emerge about moving a large contract.
The obvious suspect is Marian Hossa, whose life contract expires in 2021. Other options could be Hjalmarsson or newly acquired Steve Montador if they don’t live up to expectations this season. But if the Blackhawks can move Hossa in the next 2 years, they will. At that time a majority of his front-loaded contract will be paid, which will make him attractive to small market teams looking to get to the cap floor (assuming no huge changes to the new CBA next year).
“But what if Hossa averages 35 goals over the next 2 seasons?” Although that could affect the decision-making process, in my opinion it makes him that much more movable. Just ask Brian Campbell.
Obviously this is all down the road and if this summer proved anything, it’s that a lot can change between now and then. It’s amazing that just a couple of months ago, there was doubt as to whether or not the Hawks could afford to keep Sharp.
All-in-all, this is another very good and pro-active signing for Stan Bowman which should (but probably won’t) quiet many of his detractors. Bowman and company have assembled a team comparable to any in the NHL. With this much core talent locked up, and cap room for a more solid supporting cast, anything short of another Stanley Cup in the next 3 years will be a disappointment.