The Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t do much when NHL free agency opened Saturday due to their salary cap struggles, but they did reacquire the services of a three-time Stanley Cup winner
The news that had been circulating throughout the week finally became official Saturday: The Chicago Blackhawks re-signed forward Patrick Sharp as the NHL free agency period opened.
Sharp, a three-time Stanley Cup winner in Chicago before being moved to Dallas ahead of the 2015-16 season, inked a one-year, $1 million deal with the Blackhawks. $800,000 of that comes in the form of base pay, while the other $200,000 comes in the form of games-played bonuses, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. So Sharp will come in at an $800,000 salary cap hit, according to CapFriendly.
This is an extremely team-friendly deal, especially considering Sharp’s previous cap hit was close to $6 million per season. But that doesn’t mean it’s fraught with concern. The last team-friendly deal the Blackhawks signed was just last season with defenseman Brian Campbell. Few would say that worked out really well.
Sharp is coming off a season in which he suffered multiple concussions followed by a hip surgery. The 35-year-old will hopefully be ready to go in early October, but he’ll spend a good chunk of this offseason recovering from said surgery.
Sharp had a strong first season in Dallas after being traded there as part of a salary cap purge for Chicago following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. He posted 55 points in 76 regular-season games and added six points in 13 playoff contests.
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But last season saw Sharp suit up just 48 times and tally 18 points. There has to be concern about the veteran’s health, certainly part of the reason the Blackhawks aren’t sinking much money into Sharp. Still, for a team that’s going to be over the cap until Marian Hossa can be put on long-term injured reserve, every dollar counts. Let’s hope Sharp can stay on the ice regularly, for starters.
Blackhawks add another forward, defenseman, goaltender
The Blackhawks, despite the aforementioned limited cap space, made three other deals today as well.
Area native and forward Tommy Wingels was signed to a one-year deal by general manager Stan Bowman. Wingels is best remembered for his time with the San Jose Sharks, but the Evanston native finished last season in Ottawa. Wingels, a 6-foot 29-year-old, had just 12 points between the teams last season and projects as a bottom-six forward in Chicago.
Wingels is a center by trade, which further explains why the Blackhawks recently let Dennis Rasmussen walk. You have to figure Wingels won’t be making a whole lot on this new deal — certainly not anywhere near the $2.475 million cap hit he’s had each of the last three seasons.
The Blackhawks also added a defenseman in Jordan Oesterle on a two-year contract. Admittedly, I had no idea who this was. Oesterle recently turned 25 and has been part of the Edmonton Oilers organization, though primarily in the AHL. He generated a cap hit of just $585,000 last season.
Oesterle recorded 32 points in 44 AHL games last season. The left-handed shot has all of 25 NHL games under his belt, recording six points in that time. He’ll probably start with the Rockford IceHogs next season and possibly compete for the sixth and seventh defenseman spots with Chicago later on.
Da Windy City
One other signing Bowman made was a two-year deal with goaltender Jean-Francois Berube. The 25-year-old was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the recent expansion draft after spending a couple seasons in the New York Islanders organization.
Berube recorded a 6-4-3 record in NHL action with New York last season and adds more netminding depth to a Blackhawks organization that has little. He came in at a cap hit of $675,000 last season.
Big-name signings across the league
We all knew the Blackhawks wouldn’t be doing a whole lot today as NHL free agency opened. They have no cap space as they await the ability to put Hossa on LTIR. The only other possible move we’re still waiting on is the long-rumored trade of Marcus Kruger to … somewhere.
The Blackhawks are still going to be over the cap heading into the season, even after any Kruger move. So I wouldn’t expect them to go out and do much else before the regular season starts. Maybe they get Jordin Tootoo‘s contract off the books somehow, or perhaps they re-sign Brian Campbell. Outside of that, don’t expect a whole lot.
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of free agency news to talk about across the league. Here are some of the bigger names who have inked deals today:
D Trevor Daley to Detroit
F Sam Gagner to Vancouver
G Steve Mason to Winnipeg
G Jonathan Bernier to Colorado
G Brian Elliott to Philadelphia
F Josh Jooris to Carolina
F Matt Hunwick to Pittsburgh
D Michael Del Zotto to Vancouver
G Chad Johnson to Buffalo
G Ondrej Pavelec to New York Rangers
G Anders Nilsson to Vancouver
D Karl Alzner to Montreal
F Brian Boyle to New Jersey
F Colin Wilson to Colorado via trade
F Justin Williams to Carolina
F Benoit Pouliot to Buffalo
F Nick Bonino to Nashville
G Antti Niemi to Pittsburgh
D Dmitry Kulikov to Winnipeg
F Mike Cammalleri to Los Angeles
F Brett Connolly back to Washington
F Martin Hanzal to Dallas
D Marc-Edouard Vlasic back to San Jose
G Martin Jones back to San Jose
This is just in the first 40 minutes of free agency, so there will be more to come across the league. But that is a number of big names who have new contracts already.