It has long been speculated that Patrick Sharp would be the primary victim of the Chicago Blackhawks’ impending salary cap crunch.
With young star winner Brandon Saad in need of a new contract that is sure to be somewhat pricey, something has to give when it comes to the team’s cap structure.
With Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford each playing crucial roles in the team’s Stanley Cup championship this year, it’s easy to see why the 33-year-old Sharp is likely to be the odd man out of the Blackhawks’ expensive pieces.
Per NHL source, CHI currently asking for 1st rd pick, A-level prospect & top 6 forward on entry-level contract for Patrick Sharp #isles
— B.D. Gallof (@BDGallof) June 19, 2015
There will certainly be a long list of potential suitors looking to acquire the services of the three time Stanley Cup champion, but it’s certainly possible that the Blackhawks’ rumored astronomically high asking price will cause some teams to back away from trade talks. It is, however, also reasonable to expect that the rumored asking price will come tumbling down as the process moves along. Such is the nature of negotiation tactics.
QUICK NOTE: If they truly are asking for a top 6 forward in return, I question Stan Bowman’s logic in doing so. The Blackhawks desperately need young defensemen. They’re set at forward. Toews, Kane, Saad, Hossa, Teravainen, Kruger, Shaw, Panarin, Hartman, McNeill, Danault are all on the roster or in the pipeline. The defense seems like much more of a needy area, in my mind. Keith, Seabrook, and Hjalmarsson will be mainstays, but what beyond that? Trevor van Riemdsyk seems like a solid bottom pairing option long term. Ville Pokka has second pairing upside. Stephen Johns could crack the roster next year, but he’s already 23. The Blackhawks stand to benefit greatly from moving Sharp for a draft pick and a solid defensive prospect who has a certain NHL future. Otherwise, next year could be ugly with Chicago having three top pairing defensemen and three AHL defensemen at the bottom.
So without further ado, here are the four NHL teams that I deem to be the best fits for landing Sharp via trade as the draft approaches:
4. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers are all set to pick Connor McDavid on Friday, and in doing so will have one of the best groups of young forwards that the NHL has seen in decades. McDavid, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, and Leon Draisaitl are set to give opposing defenses nightmares for the next decade or so.
But beyond the obvious needs of defense and goaltending, Edmonton needs experience and leadership. I don’t mean “experience and leadership” in the traditional sense of giving away roster spots to horrible defensive defensemen who are “gritty” or whatever. You’ll rarely see winning teams doing that. What I mean is that this young group of forwards needs a player who has been through the battles and can help them along the learning curve of what it takes to win at the NHL level. As a player who has won three Stanley Cups and been a key cog in the closest thing we’ll see to a dynasty in the salary cap era, Sharp fits the bill perfectly.
The Oilers are a great trading partner for the Blackhawks in this scenario. It’s been speculated that Pittsburgh’s 2015 1st rounder could be dangled to try to land Cam Talbot, but if it’s not, it would be the perfect centerpiece in a Sharp trade. Chicago’s sure to want to get in on the first round of this draft, and the Oilers having a second first round pick is a luxury they could afford to part with to improve the current group.
As I mentioned earlier, the Oilers have a greater need for young defensemen than pretty much another team in the league, but the good news for them is that they have a solid stable of young defensemen coming through the system. Justin Schultz hasn’t worked out quite as well as they hoped, but he’s definitely worth keeping around long term. Darnell Nurse was a solid pick in 2013’s first round, and he’s a player the Oilers can’t afford to part with. Martin Marincin (23) and Oscar Klefbom (21) are the two other young defensemen with reasonably high upside and NHL time already under their belts.
It’s hard to imagine the Blackhawks getting a better offer than one of Marincin OR Klefbom (I strongly presume the Oilers would rather part with Marincin) AND Pittsburgh’s 16th overall pick. I see that as a possible trade being highly beneficial to both parties.
3. Florida Panthers
The Panthers are a young team with a highly impressive core. They seem to be poised to take the next step toward being perennial contenders this year by being right in the mix for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Jonathan Huberdeau, the pieces are there up front for this to be a team worth keeping an eye on.
Sharp is an ideal fit for this team due to his combination of experience and versatility. In my mind, he would fit like a glove next to either one of Barkov and Bjugstad. Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Hayes (both of whom are former Blackhawks) make up the other long term pieces of Florida’s top nine forwards. On defense, the Panthers are spoiled with the incredible Aaron Ekblad (19), Erik Gudbranson (23), Dmitry Kulikov (24), and Alex Petrovic (23) all set to be long-term players for the team.
It’s highly unlikely that Florida would want to move their first round pick (11th overall) in this year’s draft at all, let alone for an expensive 33-year-old winger. However, as mentioned earlier, the Panthers are set up nicely on defense for the foreseeable future. They also have a pair of attractive prospects at the position who are yet to crack the NHL roster in Ian McCoshen and Mike Matheson.
If the Panthers are willing to move one of those two Sharp, I’d have to think they’d have Stan Bowman’s attention. The Panthers also have two third round picks in this year’s draft. One of those prospects, one of those picks, and perhaps next year’s second rounder would be a reasonable offer for Sharp if the Blackhawks are unable to secure a better offer.
The thing about the Panthers is that while they are set up nicely with a great young core, they aren’t loaded with depth prospects to offer up in trades like some of the other teams on this list are. This means that their potential offer for Sharp may not be up to snuff with what some of the others are able to come up with, but that doesn’t change the reality that they do have the pieces to get it done and that Sharp would be an excellent fit on their roster.
2. Washington Capitals
It’s already known that the main goal for Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan in this offseason is to add another top six forward to his group. This seems to be a good idea in order to take some of the scoring burden off of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who at times this season were the only reliable sources of offensive production among the ranks of Washington’s forwards.
Between Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov, it seems as though two-thirds of Washington’s top six forwards are set in stone. Among the competitors for the final three spots will be Andre Burakovsky, Troy Brouwer, Marcus Johansson, and potentially Joel Ward and Curtis Glencross (should they not elect to test free agency). Burakovsky is a solid bet to grab one of those spots. He’s young, cost-controlled, and productive. The bottom six will be filled out by Brooks Laich, Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, Jason Chimera, and likely the two remaining players who didn’t get top six slots and are still on the roster.
So there’s a lot up in the air for the Capitals’ forward group next year to say the least. There’s a lot of flexibility. The only forwards currently under contract are Ovechkin, Laich, Backstrom, Brouwer, Chimera, Latta, and Wilson. Kuznetsov and Johansson are RFAs, while Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle, Ward, and Glencross are UFAs. This flexibility means that Washington has the roster spots and cap space to pursue the acquisition of Sharp.
On defense, the Capitals have a top four of John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, and Brooks Orpik locked in for quite some time. Dmitry Orlov is under contract for next year at a price tag of $2 million. Mike Green, Tim Gleason, and Nate Schmidt are UFAs not likely to be retained by the team.
In terms of prospects, Washington has a few pieces that might be attractive to Chicago. Riley Barber (RW) and Connor Carrick (D) are the two prospects who aren’t of too much value to be moved, but are also valuable enough to be interesting to the Blackhawks. The other teams on this list may have better prospects to offer up, but Washington could afford to offer up their first rounder in this year’s draft to make the deal more appealing. Johansson could also be a sensible part of the return going to the Windy City.
The clock is ticking on the prime years of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson, and Alzner, and as such it’s essential that the Capitals maximize their chances of winning a Stanley Cup during this window. Making the move to bring in a proven veteran winner like Sharp would be a wise one in my estimation. He would offer leadership and crucial scoring depth to a team that looks like it certainly needs both of those things.
1. New York Islanders
John Tavares needs a winger; this much has been made clear. With Tavares, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and Anders Lee, the Islanders have an exciting young group of forwards that could easily lead them to contending status for years to come.
It’s an interesting situation that the Brooklyn-bound Islanders find themselves in. It’s said that they have been considering shopping winger Kyle Okposo. Okposo has one year left on a deal worth $2.8 million against the salary cap. Okposo has spent a lot of time with Tavares, and the prevailing thought is that the American winger doesn’t possess the versatility or defensive reliability that the Islanders desire to have next to their franchise cornerstone.
That’s where Sharp could come into play. Sharp is solid defensively, and his goal scorer’s mentality would fit beautifully with Tavares’ excellent vision and playmaking acumen. There’s little doubt in my mind that swapping out Okposo for Sharp would make the Islanders’ forward group more well-rounded. If it truly is the case that the Blackhawks are seeking a top six forward in return for Sharp, it’s unlikely that they’ll find one as good as Okposo in other potential targets. Okposo’s low cap hit is also sure to be a highly attractive feature in the eyes of the cash-strapped Stanley Cup champions.
The Islanders also have one of the league’s deepest stockpiles of defensive prospects if Bowman chooses to go that route with a Sharp trade. Pokka was acquired in the deal that sent Nick Leddy to Long Island, but the Islanders still have Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech in their system. Reinhart is far too valuable to part with alongside Okposo in exchange for Sharp, but moving one of the other three or Calvin de Haan with Okposo for Sharp and another piece of reasonable value could be a move that works well for both sides.
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So there you have it, four potential destinations for Sharp along with the potential returns from each of the four teams.
Blackhawks fans, what would you like to see Bowman pull back in return for Sharp? Do you think my ideas for a return are reasonable? What jerseys could you stomach seeing a huge figure in Blackhawks’ history suit up in next Fall? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.