With the Chicago Blackhawks needing to shed salary before the regular season begins, NBC Sports' Mike Halford wonders if they could turn to their pipeline with the Florida Panthers.
The Blackhawks currently sit $2.2 million over the $69-million cap for 2014-15. With their recent re-signings of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, they have more than $65 million invested in 15 players for 2015-16. Assuming the salary cap for that season jumps to $75 million, the 'Hawks will have less than $10 million to re-sign or replace potential free agents Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, Johnny Oduya, Nick Leddy, Michal Rozsival and Marcus Kruger.
Halford notes the Blackhawks in recent years dealt Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen to Florida. That's largely because Panthers GM Dale Tallon is also the former GM of the Blackhawks and had a hand in bringing most of the aforementioned to Chicago before he moved on to the Panthers.
In the short term, the Blackhawks could peddle Oduya ($3.38 million) or Leddy ($2.7 million) to become cap compliant for 2014-15. TSN radio host Jason Gregor reports of speculation Oduya could be the likely trade candidate. To free up more cap space for 2015-16, however, they'll have to ship out a player on a longer-term contract.
Halford noted the recent trade rumors swirling around winger Patrick Sharp, who's signed through 2017 at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million. While Sharp's agent vehemently denied the speculation, Halford suggests the 32-year-old winger could interest Tallon, who's seeking an experienced sniper. Tallon brought Sharp to Chicago in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2005-06.
It remains to be seen if the Blackhawks will put Sharp on the trade block, but this summer could be the best opportunity to do so. Having reached a career-best 78 points last season, Sharp's trade value probably won't be higher than it is now. A potential sticking point, however, is his modified no-trade clause. Despite his former ties with Tallon, Sharp could be unwilling to accept a trade to the always-rebuilding Panthers.
The Montreal Canadiens could be an option. Like Tallon, Habs GM Marc Bergevin is a product of the Blackhawks' front office. The Canadiens also lost a scoring left winger when Thomas Vanek signed with Minnesota, plus they have more than $15 million in cap space to absorb Sharp's contract. That cap space, however, will significantly shrink once they've re-signed restricted free agents P.K. Subban and Lars Eller later this summer.
Other options include the Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes, who were 19th and 20th, respectively, in goals-per-game last season. The Predators lack scoring punch on left wing while the Coyotes could use a scoring boost after losing Radim Vrbata to free agency. However, both clubs could balk at picking up Sharp's full salary.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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