Chicago Blackhawks: On Patrick Sharp, Opening Night 2015

By Colin Likas

Another layer of intrigue has been added to the “Trading Patrick Sharp” soap opera, courtesy Chicago Tribune Chicago Blackhawks beat writer Chris Kuc. According to a recent tweet, Kuc has been led to believe the Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars are currently most interested in Sharp, but that the asking price of a first-round pick, an A-level prospect and a top-six forward on an entry-level contract is still too steep.

The news about the asking price is no surprise, and the Panthers being interested in Sharp isn’t truly surprising either. But the Penguins and Stars are two new teams in the fold for acquiring Sharp’s services, so let’s take a look at why they might want him, and why they might or might not get him.

It was written on Blackhawk Up yesterday that the Penguins might have interest in another Chicago Blackhawks forward, Bryan Bickell. But they’re apparently more concerned with skill versus a big body at this time, which is a slight deviation from Pittsburgh’s more-recent trades (Rob Klinkhammer, Maxim Lapierre and Daniel Winnik among them).

The Penguins are currently looking at approximately $13.7 million in cap space for the 2015-16 season, with 12 players on the current roster sitting in free-agent status. That includes six forwards, four wings among them (Steve Downie, Beau Bennett, Craig Adams and Blake Comeau). The question here isn’t whether Sharp would improve Pittsburgh’s forward corps — he certainly would, even if his best days are likely behind him. A second line of Sharp-Evgeni MalkinDavid Perron probably sounds pretty good to the Penguins’ front office.

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  • The issue with Pittsburgh is the money. Sharp is owned $5.9 million each of the next two seasons, which would put the Pens in a serious hole if they had to acquire all of Sharp’s salary. While a rumor is out about Brandon Sutter and his $3.3 million cap hit being moved, Pittsburgh would probably need to make an additional move to fit Sharp in — or ask the ’Hawks to keep some money from Sharp’s contract. While not something Stan Bowman would love to do, offering to keep some of Sharp’s contract could kick up what he can ask from the Penguins in return.

    From a purely money-focused standpoint, Sharp to the Penguins doesn’t make a ton of sense at this time. But it’s been out in the Twittersphere for the last 18-plus hours that they’re interested in Sharp, and no one has stepped forward to refute it, so maybe the Penguins have some tricks up their sleeves.

    The Dallas Stars wanting Sharp shouldn’t be terribly surprising, although ’Hawks fans don’t like to imagine shipping a longtime Blackhawk to a conference and division rival. The Stars are actually in great shape with the salary cap, as they have only three forwards and backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth in free-agent status, and are sitting with $17,315,000 in cap space. If the Stars had the chance to replace Patrick Eaves with Sharp, it seems likely they’d do. (Yes, Sharp typically plays left wing and Eaves right wing, but guys can play other positions — right Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen?)

    Dallas finished last season seven points from a playoff spot, so the Stars may think Sharp is their missing piece to make a Stanley Cup playoffs run. The interesting thing is, Dallas’ deficiencies last season seemed primarily at defense and goaltending, not at forward. The Stars tallied 260 goals in 2014-15, one fewer than league-leading Tampa Bay. But they also permitted 260 goals, better than only Toronto, Buffalo, Edmonton and Arizona.

    Dallas would likely be able to take on more of Sharp’s salary than Pittsburgh, if not all of it, which would theoretically drive down what Bowman could get in return. But it would relieve the main issue for the ’Hawks at this time, which is having too much money against the cap. Sharp to Dallas seems more likely at this time than Sharp to Pittsburgh. But don’t forget about Florida … and the other teams reportedly in the hunt.

    Date set for banner raising. In more fun news, each team’s opening game for the 2015-16 season was announced today, and the Blackhawks will raise their Stanley Cup banner Oct. 7 against the New York Rangers. That follows the ’Hawks raising the 2010 banner against the Detroit Red Wings and the 2013 banner against the Los Angeles Kings. Apparently, it’s a requirement for the ’Hawks to raise a championship banner against a team with a three-word name.

    Additionally, the ’Hawks will play the first game in the New York Islanders’ new Brooklyn-based home, scheduled for Oct. 9. The rest of the 2015-16 regular-season schedules for all teams will be released Thursday.

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