With the NHL Entry Draft rapidly approaching and the Chicago Blackhawks in desperate need of salary cap space and draft selections, rumors are already swirling about which players could be headed elsewhere after the team’s Stanley Cup victory last week.
The player who has been the most widely discussed over the span of the last seven days has been winger Patrick Sharp. With a $5.9 million cap hit and dwindling production as he saw his role change with the team, Sharp has been the subject of trade rumors all season long, and now that the Hawks are moving into the timeframe where they need to acquire draft picks and clear out salary cap room to bring back players like Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, things are more heated than ever.
The problems for the Blackhawks are well-documented. The team only has 13 players under contract for next season, and they only have $6-7 million in salary cap space to play with, depending on what the NHL sets the final number at. With that tough squeeze in mind, the team is going to have to part with some pieces, and Sharp best combines salary cap relief and the potential of a solid return in a swap.
With that in mind, we have compiled a list of teams that could be interested in the winger, and we dissect the pros and cons of each potential move.
Two teams that could potentially look to Sharp for offensive help are the San Jose Sharks and Arizona Coyotes, but neither team is likely to land the star forward. The Coyotes have plenty of cap space, but it’s unlikely that they would want to part with the number three overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft, which begins Friday. They could conceivably trade back the Blackhawks’ first round selection (which they sent to Arizona in the Antoine Vermette trade), but when you add in the fact that they’d be helping a Western Conference rival, it seems unlikely.
As for the Sharks, they could put together an intriguing package of players and picks, but they also suffer because of their status as a West team. The Blackhawks aren’t going to want to see Sharp very often during the regular season, so they’ll likely focus on the East instead.
Unlikely, but Not Impossible:
The New York Islanders could be on the lookout for a scoring winger, but they don’t hold a first round draft pick, and that could end up being a dealbreaker as the Hawks look to move back into that round.
The Montreal Canadiens would also be a great fit, but with zero cap space, it would be hard to fit Sharp’s cap hit of nearly $6 million into the mix.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are hit with a double-whammy of issues, as they hold no first round pick (it went to Edmonton) and barely any cap space to work with.
There are three teams that seem to make the most sense for a Sharp swap. The Florida Panthers are a good bet, with Dale Tallon’s relationship with Stan Bowman causing the two teams to make several trades with one another. The 11th overall pick in the draft could be great leverage, and the Panthers have enough cap room that they can give the Hawks some flexibility without shipping a contract the other way.
The Washington Capitals could also be a good landing spot for Sharp. The team played better under Barry Trotz last season, and with their rumored interest at the NHL trade deadline earlier this year and their need for more veteran leadership, it would make sense for Sharp to end up in the nation’s capital.
Finally, the Detroit Red Wings could strike a deal and grab Sharp from the Blackhawks. They have some cap space to play with and some solid prospects that could head back to Chicago in a swap.
Toronto could make an interesting landing spot as they start to retool under head coach Mike Babcock, but if the team is serious about an overhaul, bringing in an older veteran winger with two years left on his contract may not be the smartest gameplan.
Another team to keep an eye on is Ottawa. The 18th overall pick in the draft could be in play there, and they have enough cap space and prospect depth to make a nice run at the winger.