It must be a pretty dizzying summer for Patrick Sharp. From Cup win to near certainty he would have been shipped at the draft, then he wasn’t, then Saad was, and then he might stay, then he might not, then a few of the possible destinations he would have had on his list dried up. The question is what happens now.
On the surface, there are legit hockey reasons to keep Sharp around. If Bickell is indeed flogged to anyone who will take him, along with Versteeg, the Hawks simply won’t have anyone to play the left side. Whichever of Dano or Teuvo doesn’t play center would be more effective on the right (seen it with both of them last season already). Viktor Tikhonov is probably going to play on the left, or at least will be tried there in camp. Panarin also plays left wing, but you would be hard pressed to think Quenneville is going to go to battle with two inexperienced kids as his only scoring left wings.
Of course, the other thing to consider is the Hawks have 23 Brandon Saad goals to replace. Maybe it’s a little less if you think Panarin and Tikhonov can chip in. The thing is, Sharp can gobble almost all of that up himself with a correction in shooting percentage and health. He’s not the 200-foot demon he once was, but he hasn’t forgotten how to score goals either.
The problem is the numbers don’t work. Let’s say that the Hawks are able to dump Versteeg and Bickell overboard without taking any money back (and that’s some task). That opens up $6 million, and I’m guessing the Hawks want to bring back Kruger and Oduya for a combined $5.5. But that puts the Hawks right at the cap, and Stephen Johns isn’t even on the roster yet. You could flip Morin and Panarin and have 12 forwards, demote Rundblad and whether he makes it through waivers or not that’s Johns’s space, but that’s only six d-men and 12 forwards. And 12 forwards isn’t going to fly because there’s no way you want Hossa playing 78 games or more again.
So the question becomes if Sharp and one of Bickell or Versteeg has to go to open up cash, you have to try and at least make some sort of actual hockey trade instead of a straight salary dump. We know Sharp has a 10-team list he can be traded to without his permission, or he can submit one. Anyone else and he has to clear it, and he doesn’t have to though these things always tend to work out that way. No one knows who the 10 teams are, though you can guess. Washington and Pittsburgh almost certainly would have been on it, but they’ve already made their moves. Fairly certain the Rangers and Islanders would be on it too, but the Rangers don’t have any cap space and the Islanders are kind of loaded at forward as it is.
I think we know the Hawks would be loathe to trade him within the conference unless they know it was a team that wasn’t a threat. Edmonton would be nice, but Sharp isn’t going there. Vancouver is currently falling apart. Other than that, where is harmless? Arizona? Again, I doubt they’re on Sharp’s list given their uncertainty and what would they have to give back?
Toronto isn’t taking on any older players with big salaries. It’s hard to know if Montreal even thinks they need him (they do), and they don’t have any wingers other than Galchenyuk (whom their coach criminally undervalues) that I would be interested in. They have some bad d-men they’d probably offer, but that’s not where the Hawks are. Boston is capped out too. So where does Sharp go? It’s looking less and less likely.
Essentially, it feels like Stan has a decision between Sharp and a discounted Oduya (if such a thing even exists, because we know what he could get elsewhere and how long he’s willing to wait is anyone’s guess). That hinges on just how much he thinks of Stephen Johns and whether he’s ready to shoulder a top four role now. Ideally, you’d want to hammock shift him with TVR on the third pairing until he earns that, but that might not be an option.
But at least Johns is something of a solid solution on the blue line. We know he can play. The Hawks can say they do, but I’m guessing they don’t have much of an idea of what they’ll get out of Panarin, Tikhonov, McNeill, or any other kid who might fill in on the left side. Johns isn’t a known quality, but he’s more known than those above.
It isn’t pleasant either way.
-There is one name out there if Sharp goes that’s apparently willing to take a one-year prove-it deal that has me somewhat piqued. That’s one Alex Semin.
I know, you’re making a face right now. I get it. And three Russians on the roster might kill some people in the front office and in the stands who lived through the Mike Smith era. I get it.
Semin’s rep is probably partially earned, but he’s also probably a victim of the media’s exuberance in piling on Russian players. His possession numbers are consistently strong, and has cracked +5.0% relative on three occasions in both DC and Carolina. We’re talking about a guy who’s pierced 34 goals three times when he was playing with real talent. And that shot… it’s still among the best releases in the league.
If he’s willing to take a one year, cheap deal a la Brad Richards, it could pay off big time. Stay tuned here.