Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp’s Days Are Numbered

By Skylar Peters

There’s 7 players that have been with the Chicago Blackhawks for all three of their Stanley Cup wins since 2010.

When the ‘Hawks step on the ice next season, raising their 2015 Stanley Cup champions banner, that number will almost certainly be six. In fact, it will likely be much sooner than that.

It’s no secret that Patrick Sharp is on his way out of Chicago. With the monster contracts for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews kicking in for the 2015-16 season, the Blackhawks’ championship roster is in need of a face-lift. Though it won’t be as extensive as the 2010 salary cap-ocalypse, the Blackhawks certainly won’t get away as unscathed as they did in 2013, when they retained 21 Cup-winning players for the start of the next season.

At the top of the list, is Sharp. Though he is considered a part of the ‘Hawks ‘core’, sharing three rings with Kane, Toews, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, and Duncan Keith, Sharp’s name has frequently come up in trade conversation, especially around the trade deadline over the past few seasons.

After Sharp was in the mix last summer, as well as this March at the deadline, it seemed that the Blackhawks were going to move forward without the 33-year old, Cup or not. They got the cup, and on a day where the Blackhawks celebrated their win at Soldier Field, and officially moved on, the focus shifts towards the off-season. Sharp’s time is officially up.

Though Sharp still has two years left on his contract, it’s nearly a sure thing that he will be gone by October. Bob McKenzie of TSN said that Sharp “will be gone”, on the ice of the United Center, just hours after #10 lifted the Cup for the third time with the ‘Hawks. When McKenzie says something, usually he’s right.

Since then, McKenzie has also listed the Washington Capitals as a front-runner for Sharp, and logic says that guess won’t be far off, either.

The Capitals are searching for answers, after yet another promising season failed to propel them past the second round in the playoffs. Patrick Sharp is exactly the kind of guy that the Capitals need: someone with championship experience, and still able to contribute. Sharp blossomed alongside Jonathan Toews in Chicago, but was soon sent down the depth chart with the emergence of Brandon Saad. The thought of Sharp back alongside a marquee forward in Alex Ovechkin, certainly has to interest Caps General Manager Brian MacLellan.

On the financial side of the coin (pun not intended), the signs are pointing to Washington, as well. Sharp’s $5.9 million cap hit is certainly a lot for the Capitals to take on, but in the wake of another disappointingly short playoff run, it’s the kind of risk management will be ready to take.

In return, the Blackhawks will be looking to shorten the payroll. In Sharp’s place next year, will almost certainly be a player on an entry-level contract. Whether that be a player acquired in a trade, or a prospect from the Blackhawks’ system such as Ryan Hartman or Alex Broadhurst, the ‘Hawks will be looking for a younger fill-in next season.

The Capitals possess a couple of interesting prospects, that MacLellan may offer up for a player of Sharp’s pedigree.

Riley Barber was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and his play since than has made him appear as a huge steal. Barber averaged over a point-per-game in his sophomore season with Miami University this year, and also scored four goals in five games with the USA’s U20 team at the World Junior tournament.

As the Capitals’ 13th overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Jakub Vrana may seem like a long-shot. However, with the 19-year old yet to play a professional game in North America, the Capitals may give up a promising prospect, in return for immediate production.

Defensively, the Caps’ most interesting prospect is Winnipeg, Manitoba native, Madison Bowey. Bowey captained the Kelowna Rockets to the WHL Championship this past season, and was just one goal away from capturing the Memorial Cup as well, falling to the Oshawa Generals in over-time. With defensemen Paul Martin and Mike Green both unlikely to re-sign with the team, it looks like the Capitals will elect to keep the 20-year old in their prospect pool.

Other teams around the league that could be interested in Sharp include the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are in a similar situation to the Capitals. Another interesting team is the Florida Panthers, who certainly have the cap space to take on Sharp’s contract.

The path from Chicago to Florida is a well-travelled one, with ex-Blackhawks GM and Stan Bowman swinging multiple trades for the likes of Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Pirri, and Brian Campbell over the past several years, not to mention former Blackhawk Dave Bolland signing a five-year deal with Florida last summer.

As far as time-lines go, expect a deal for Sharp to get done, sooner rather than later. The Blackhawks have been receiving interest in the forward for quite some time, and with the NHL draft just 7 days away, ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman will explore all of his options before then.

No matter where he lands, the chances of Patrick Sharp playing his next NHL game in a Blackhawks jersey, are slim to none. What remains to be seen, however, is just what the Blackhawks’ roster will look like without him, and how they will fare offensively.

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