Lets set things straight. Patrick Sharp isn’t going anywhere.

…for the time being.

It is all but set in stone that when the Blackhawks take the ice on October 9th against the Dallas Stars your beloved #10 will be in his familiar position on a wing along with fellow linemates Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

Will he last the entire season with the Blackhawks, though, is anyone’s guess.

As you are aware, the Blackhawks are approaching the 2014-2015 season $2.2 million ($2,216,795 to be exact) over the $69 million cap limit. This means, you guessed it, the Blackhawks must shed $2.2 million worth of cap space by the start of the season. Lets assume prospect Teuvo Teravainen begins the season in Rockford. This cuts $894,167 from the $2.2 million the Blackhawks are over, leaving the team $1.3 million over the limit instead. This doesn’t seem like much, but in the NHL salary cap game, $900,000 a small fortune. 

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This could very well mean the departure (via trade) of any player making over $1.3 million. The popular names thrown around for the past month include defensemen Johnny Oduya ($3.3 million), Michal Rozsival ($2.2 million), Brent Seabrook ($5.8 million) and forwards Patrick Sharp ($5.9 million) and Bryan Bickell ($4 million).

“Well you just answered your own question. Michal Rozsival is by far the worst player on that list, trade him!”

First off, its not that easy.

During the salary-cap era, hockey has evolved into a strategic game of numbers.

Second, and foremost, in order to trade a player, a a potential trade partner must first want that player. Would you trade for a mediocre, 35-year old, $2.2 million cap hit if you were looking to build a championship team?

I didn’t think so.

This is why a player like Kris Versteeg ($2.2 million) is never even mentioned on lists of potential trade subjects. No one wants him – aside from Stan Bowman, that is.

At this point in time, it seems most realistic that a player like Johnny Oduya is likeliest to be shipped out. He’s experienced, durable, reasonably affordable and, most importantly, isn’t completely useless. The most important factor is that there are plenty of teams paper-thin on defense that would gladly inquire about his services.

Now lets enter that wonderful world of theoretics.   

You may or may not want to crucify me for implying this, but a trade involving Patrick Sharp would make the most sense for Blackhawks moving forward.

Sharp is a wonderful person and an even better asset to the Blackhawks offense. The problem is Sharp’s age, durability, and contract.

Coming off the most productive season of his NHL career, Sharp’s trade value is at an all-time high.

The demand for scoring is prevalent around the NHL. Next to defense, true scoring depth seems to be the most scarce feature among NHL rosters.

This brings me to the most logical trade scenario I observed prior to the opening of the free agent market on July 1st:

Patrick Sharp to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Erik Gudbranson and a top prospect.

Note: Gudbranson signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Panthers on July 14th.

Why it makes sense:

The Blackhawks need defensive depth. Prospects Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns are progressing nicely through the Blackhawks system but who’s to say they are NHL ready just yet? Gudbranson was the 3rd overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and has both NHL experience and limitless upside.

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The Blackhawks would also save $3.4 million with this deal – comfortably placing themselves around $1.2 million under the cap limit – money that could very well be used to resign winger Brandon Saad who is set to become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of this season.

Ultimately Sharp would have to waive his no-trade clause in order for such a deal to be made. You might ask “why would Sharp want to play in Florida?” Aside from the obvious fact that the temperature in the sunshine state very seldom drops below 70 degrees, Sharp would be reuniting with the man who brought the once-unknown winger to Chicago in the first place, Dale Tallon.

Sharp’s production may take a slight hit, but not a significant one – especially if he plays on a line with gifted youngsters Alex Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. He may even thrive on such a line.

Even with Sharp, the Florida Panthers would still be a team years away from playoff contention. It is likely that Tallon would attempt to trade Sharp at the deadline to a team desperate for scoring. It would work out well for both sides. Sharp would, once again, land with a contender and the Panthers would receive future pieces for the 32-year old’s services.

Ultimately, at the conclusion of his career, Sharp could view his tenure with the Florida Panthers as a four-month long vacation.

 

Source: CapGeek

 

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The prospect of Artemi Panarin ever reaching restricted free agency terrifies me. The otherwise harmless phrase “offer sheet” merely placed in the same sentence as Panarin’s name is all it takes to send a tidal wave of chills trickling down my spine.

The fact that both sides are currently working to ensure this never happens should provide me alleviation from my growing dread, rather I find myself just as fearful of the prospective rhetoric being exchanged between the two sides.

My fear is completely warranted, and if you beg to differ it is because you haven’t been paying close enough attention to the NHL’s newest and most impractical trend of overpaying young players.

This said, the thing that has me pants-shittingly petrified to the point of reoccurring night-sweats is the very feasible reality of Panarin’s camp taking notice of this trend and too embracing the tactic of contract hardball in the same way Brandon Saad did during the summer of 2015, Andrew Shaw did this past offseason and fellow gifted youngsters Johnny Gaudreau, Rickard Rakell and Nikita Kucherov are currently doing with the Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning.

We live in an era where the player dictates the negotiations, and more often than not, it is the player –  as opposed to the team – that walks away from the bargaining table victorious.

This past offseason, alone, has been particularly generous to restricted free agent forwards of Panarin’s age, upside and statistical output. Here’s a statistical comparison of such players and the money they received through restricted free agency or in the form of extensions.

Artemi Panarin  Sean Monahan Johnny Gaudreau Jonathan Huberdeau Alex Barkov Nathan Mackinnon
Age: 24 21 23 23 21 21
2015-2016 Goals: 30 27 30 20 28 21
2015-2016 Assists: 47 36 48 39 31 31
2015-2016 Points: 77 63 78 59 59 52
New Deal (per year in millions): N/A $6.375 N/A $5.9 $5.9 $6.3

 

Nikita Kucherov Filip Forsberg Jaden Schwartz Mike Hoffman Chris Kreider Reilly Smith
Age: 23 22 21 26 25 25
2015-2016 Goals: 30 33 8 29 21 25
2015-2016 Assists:  36 31 14 30 22 25
2015-2016 Points:  66 64 22 (33 GP) 59 43 50
New Deal (per year in millions): N/A $6.0 $5.9 $5.187 $4.625  $5.0

 

If we’re going off the numbers above, I believe it is both safe and fair to establish $6 million per season as the absolute floor to even commence preliminary extension talks between Blackhawks General Management and representatives of Panarin. Attempting to persuade the forward to take anything less could be considered embezzlement on part of the Blackhawks.

The root of my fear, though, lies in the fact that $6 million certainly will not be enough to get such a significant deal done. How many hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars more it will take to close the deal is the real burning question here.

Personally I can live with Panarin demanding Nathan Mackinnon/Sean Monahan money. At just 24 years of age and already established as an elite offensive compliment and cornerstone to the franchise, $6.3 million plus change for Panarin over a five or six year period is not only fair, but a relatively safe investment.

I mean, it takes a very special player to post 77 points during their introductory season at the NHL level, regardless of how many years they spent playing professionally elsewhere. The last to reach such a plateau was fellow KHL alum Evgeni Malkin, who posted 85 points as a rookie for Pittsburgh in 2006-2007. The most recent rookie to topple the 70 point marker was Patrick Kane, who registered 72 points en route to the Calder Trophy in 2007-2008.

I’d say Panarin resides in pretty good company.

If or when negotiations begin creeping north of the Mackinnon/Monahan line is when my anxieties will become reality. Johnny Gaudreau, the only player on the list above to post more points than Panarin last season, is a living manifestation of my inquietude.

As of today, the 23-year old Flames winger remains both unsigned and unwilling to concede from his demand of $8.5 million per season. The contract-less Gaudreau even had to resort to purchasing his own insurance in order to participate in the World Cup of Hockey as a member of Team North America. Players under contract with the NHL were insured by their respected teams.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. The third year forward out of New Jersey with only 160 NHL contests under his belt is demanding Sidney Crosby money. If the deal is granted to him – which it almost surely will not as the Flames insist they will not go any higher than $6.9 milion per – Gaudreau will find himself earning more money than such names as John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Duncan Keith, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Claude Giroux, Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Drew Doughty in 2016-2017, to name a few.

Gaudreau is a fantastic young player, don’t get me wrong. He simply does not yet belong in the same financial stratum as the far more established and accomplished names listed above.

This is why I pray to the heavens above Panarin doesn’t find himself possessed by the same delusions currently manipulating the mindset of Johnny Gaudreau into thinking it’s acceptable for a third year restricted free agent to demand superstar, organization-crippling money.

Panarin pulling the same bullshit would be devastating to a Blackhawks organization already handcuffed in fiscal salary cap hell. Even if Panarin virtuously settles for Mackinnnon/Monahan money, a series of major corresponding roster moves will be mandatory to meet cap requirements.

In the salary cap era, money into one’s pocket is money taken from another’s – as unfortunate as that may sound. The more money given to Panarin, the larger the sacrifice will be elsewhere.

Now do I believe Panarin will initiate a similar facade as Gaudreau? No, I genuinely believe he likes it here too much. His linemate is one of the best players in the world, he’s already been given a cool and timeless nickname, he has a chance to win the Stanley Cup every year, good food, and most importantly he’s not in Detroit. As you can tell, I’m doing a pretty good job of manipulating myself into believing this strictly speculative assumption.

Granted, I similarly convinced myself of this exact notion during the waning days of Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw’s tenures with the Blackhawks. Remember how transfixed they were with the city of Chicago and its fans?

Zeroes can be quite spellbinding.