Patrick Sharp is officially a victim of the Chicago Blackhawks salary cap crunch.
The Blackhawks announced Friday evening that they have dealt Sharp, along with defenseman Stephen Johns, to the Dallas Stars in exchange for blueliner Trevor Daley and winger Ryan Garbutt. Sharp is the latest domino to fall in a summer that has already seen the Blackhawks shock the hockey world by shipping out Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Sharp, 33, has spent the past decade in the Windy City and has been one of the Blackhawks cornerstone players during their resurgence over the past several seasons. An alternate captain with Chicago almost from jump, Sharp was arguably the biggest star on the club outside of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. During his tenure with the Blackhawks, Sharp scored 239 goals and 511 points in 679 games with Chicago.
"On behalf of the entire Blackhawks organization, I'd like to thank Patrick for all that he helped our franchise accomplish during his time in Chicago, especially serving an integral role in bringing us three Stanley Cup championships,” said GM Stan Bowman in a statement. “He was one of our leaders on the ice, most notably as an alternate captain for several seasons, as well as off the ice with his countless contributions and volunteer work with team partners, sponsors and Blackhawks fans everywhere. He will forever be a Blackhawk and we wish him and his family nothing but the best in Dallas and beyond."
By getting Sharp, Dallas locks up another top-six winger with post-season experience that could possibly help the club take the next step and get into the post-season. And, even with Sharp’s $5.9 million cap hit, the Stars have more than $7.5 million in cap space available. It does give Dallas one of the most lethal top-six groups in the NHL, too, with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and Sharp. On top of that, Sharp can be a power play quarterback or triggerman, like he was with the Blackhawks for the past several seasons.
While Johns may seem like a throw-in for the Stars, he was considered the next in line for the Blackhawks’ backend this upcoming season. The 23-year-old blueliner, who has good size at 6-foot-3, 229 pounds, was a second round pick of Chicago, 60th overall, in 2010 and really came into his own this past season for the Rockford IceHogs. Some expected him to be a sure thing for a second- or third-pairing role in Chicago this upcoming season.
Even though Johns was expected to crack the Blackhawks lineup, his move to the Stars could see him heading back to the NHL in 2015-16. He’ll definitely challenge for a spot on the Dallas blueline, but he could very well end up playing with the AHL’s Texas Stars to begin the upcoming campaign.
For Chicago, more than anything, the upside of the deal isn’t landing Daley, 33, or Garbutt, 29. Instead, the biggest win for the Blackhawks in the deal is unloading Sharp’s contract – Sharp, the player, will be a loss, to be sure, but his salary had to go – and having Dallas retain half of Garbutt’s $1.8 million salary, getting the winger for a scant $900,000 in each of the next two seasons.
With restricted free agent Marcus Kruger patiently awaiting a new contract and defenseman Johnny Oduya reportedly seeking to re-sign with Chicago should they free up the space, Bowman’s top task was to find a way to open room to bring back Kruger, at the very least.
The Blackhawks were likely looking to land a veteran blueliner and, while he’s not necessarily a stud defenseman, Daley does fit the bill. This past season, Daley notched 16 goals and 38 points in 68 games, but the Blackhawks are forced to take on the entirety of Daley’s $3.3 million hit. He averaged nearly 23 minutes of ice time per game and was a top-four defender for the Stars, killing penalties and playing on the power play.
As for Garbutt, he likely slots in as a fourth-line winger for Chicago and could make the likes of Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg expendable. Moving either Bickell or Versteeg will likely be a necessity if Chicago wants to give Kruger his expected raise and potential long-term deal.
Eventually, something would have to give in Chicago, and Friday evening’s trade is the first instance of it. This probably won’t be it for Chicago, however, and once again, it looks like the post-Cup Blackhawks are going to look much different than the championship squad.