Trading Patrick Sharp was inevitable. Sitting a tad over the salary cap of $71.4 million, General Manager Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks had very few options to avoid dealing Sharp, whose cap hit is $5.9 million next season. The offseason had already seen its share of casualties, including the shocking Brandon Saad trade, but the defending champs took another hit by committing this inevitable task.
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Unfortunately, the loss of Sharp isn’t the only blow the Blackhawks took in this deal. The Blackhawks had to part ways with a promising young defensive prospect in Stephen Johns. The 23-year-old blueliner was one of the top defensemen for the Rockford IceHogs last season, posting four goals and 17 assists with a plus-40 rating last season.
Johns was expected to take the next step to the professional level for the 2015-16 season and could have replaced Johnny Oduya on the second pairing. Johns likely has a high ceiling and has been in Chicago’s system since he was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round of the 2010 draft. He played four seasons at Notre Dame before joining the IceHogs during the 2013-14 season and showed plenty of potential before breaking his arm at the end of last season.
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Sure, the Blackhawks acquired a decent and proven defenseman in Trevor Daley, along with a depth forward in Ryan Garbutt. But Chicago could miss out on watching another one of its own grow into a star in an attempt to save $1.7 million in cap space.
The Blackhawks were clearly in a bind. First off, trading one of their stars and a stud prospect to a division rival is far from ideal. Dallas and most of the league knows the Blackhawks have to do something to get rid of salary, and Dallas essentially had Bowman in a stranglehold. This was the best deal Bowman could garner for the depreciating asset in Sharp, who now joins an already explosive lineup in Dallas.
The Blackhawks will look like a very different team next season. Already gone from last season’s championship club are Saad, Sharp, Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and Antti Raanta. In are Garbutt, Daley, Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano and a couple of other prospects.
Many speculated that this offseason wouldn’t be as bad as the roster purges in 2010 or 2013, but 2015 seems to be just as gruesome as the prior years. The Blackhawks have lost two big pieces of their past and a potentially bigger piece of their future to once again stay afloat economically.
As for Johns, he will likely see plenty of ice time in Dallas, which is trying to upgrade its blue line. He may not be a stud next season, but he could be a player who haunts the Blackhawks in the future.
Once again, the price of winning has proven to be costly.
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