There's no doubt we are now in the throes of the silly season in hockey where rumors are thrown to the wall like spaghetti noodles and only a few actually stick. It is with that pinch of salt we present this little bit of scuttlebutt from Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet.
Patrick Sharp might be available in the Blackhawks' seemingly never-ending quest to find another centerman, the same Patrick Sharp that led the team in scoring this past season and has been an integral part of the Blackhawks' run in recent years. That guy.
Specifically, Kypreos somewhat nonchalantly said that Sharp's name is "out there," which is relatively vague but still eye-catching. Kypreos, after all, is one of the more reliable insiders ... out there.
Once you get over the initial shock of the idea of the Blackhawks trading one of their top players, you can start to see the reasoning. The second-line center has been a long-time problem and they just parted ways with the man who was ostensibly holding it down, Michal Handzus. Andrew Shaw clicked well with Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane in the postseason but moving him up means the Blackhawks have to fill a 3C role; either way they need a center.
Ryan Kesler is rumored to be interested in going to Chicago and certainly he could fill that need well, but he's expensive and the Blackhawks don't have the luxury of cap space, Jason Spezza is available too (and surely other centers). They will be tight to the cap this coming season -- very tight -- and then looking ahead to the following season they will need new contracts for both Kane and Jonathan Toews, which will be anything but cheap.
So parting with Sharp and his $5.9 million per year cap hit for the next three seasons starts to make even more sense. Ideally the Blackhawks would believe it easier to find a replacement on the wing for Sharp than trying to fill this center hole that has been an ongoing issue despite their success.
Still, if the Blackhawks could find a way to make it all work, of course they wouldn't want to say good bye to Sharp. In his last three full NHL seasons (excluding the lockout-shortened campaign) Sharp has had 33 goals, 34 and 34, which he again hit this past season to go with 44 assists. He certainly benefits from playing with the star-studded cast in Chicago but he's a tough player to replace; you don't score that much just by riding coattails.
We're not ready to jump fully onboard with this rumor yet but as Kypreos put it, it's out there. This has the potential to be an unreal summer in terms of player movement so stay tuned.