Blackhawks Confidential

Is slumping Sharp worth more in trade value than in Chicago?

sharp-sopel.jpgTime to kick around an old question with a new perspective while waiting for Columbus to reheat United Center Tuesday night. Is left wing Patrick Sharp indispensable? Or have we come to a case of needing to play stud poker and take a sizeable gamble that pays off if everyone gets what they need?

Maybe let another franchise get a whiff of his Versace sex appeal? It has not always been that sweet smell of success. Sharp's seasons have glaring holes in them that all look the same sooner or later: 0-0-0 for extended periods.

I'm a little torn on this issue, because I like Sharp and he was a steal of a deal with Philadelphia and still rates as an asset, but if the Blackhawks have to do something (and they surely do), he may be the best alternative there is to reworking a few problem areas and addressing the need for a second-line center with Dave Bolland out indefinitely.

Sharp seems to offer the most bang for the buck if a trade that benefits Chicago is ever really made. The other clubs always want your best players, not the Brent Sopels of this crazy trade-rumor world, so let's get real about that.

Question is, can we part with Sharp and be the same title contenders? There's the rub.

Would it be impossible for the Blackhawks to succeed without their alternate captain if general manager Stan Bowman ever quit listening to all his countless advisers about the inevitable risks and made a trade that defined junior as his own man?

You can page through the history of sports and find many risky trades that turned out to mean the difference between a championship and further disappointment by standing pat and safe.

If you believe Sharp is an integral part of the Stanley Cup championship hopefuls and that trading him is senseless, please explain why the Hawks have managed to do just fine overall while he has scored a paltry 2 goals in his last 19 games?

What's sexy about that? Sharp's scoring appeal has dropped more quickly than a Romeo trying to get by without his underarm deordorant since he scored 5 goals, 9 points in the season's first six games.

Depending on what they get in return, the Blackhawks might have to consider that trading Sharp's $3.9 million salary cap hit (through 2011-12) and his lone power-play goal (tallied way, way back on Oct. 3) could move them forward.

Not only would the salary cap space help lock up mainstays Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith to those contracts still collecting dust in Bowman's to-do file, but the Hawks would have to acquire a second-line center in a Sharp swap--and trust that Kris Versteeg could replace him at left wing with enough second-line scoring to plug the gap.

Versteeg is down for a hefty $3,083,333. Time to slot him into that space and make him earn his keep.

The inimitable Forklift at Hockee Night is raising the possibility of trading Sharp to Atlanta for veteran left wing Slava Kozlov, who gets $3.66 million this year, but brings the tagging room by being an unrestricted free agent next season and opening the space needed to complete the Holy Trinity extensions right now since next season's salaries are counted when extensions are finalized.

If Forklift, who has steadily shot down Sharp trade rumors in the past with a gruff get-lost idiot, is getting involved in possible scenarios, Sharp could be next to gone.

If history repeats, Sharp may benefit in the coming days by a return to United Center, where the schedule is home heavy in December. Last season, after the circus trip ended, Sharp scored a goal in each of his first three games to start December (two at home) on a four-game, goal-scoring streak.

So let's look on the bright side and hope Sharp is ready to break out Tuesday. He has been elevated to play on a line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, while Patrick Kane returns to right wing and joins Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien on a second line. But there is always a deep freeze on Sharp's horizon.

There was one last January. After scoring a goal Jan. 4, Sharp would score only three goals in his next 18 games.

His offense was as chilly as the Chicago weather starting last February and injuries sapped his strength last February and April. Is that what we have to look forward to again or will Bowman pull the trigger and make a major deal, not a minor fix-it?

Sharp would score 7 times in the 2009 postseason, including that memorable game winner in overtime of Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, but he was 0-0-0 four times in the Vancouver series that preceded it.

He never has a ying without a yang.

Look at it like a ledger and he goes broke for certain periods every season. You see a lot of 0-0-0 cluttering his production. Sharp can splurge--and he can disappear.

Athletes won't be perfect. They all have slumps. Question is, does Sharp have too many to consider him a key piece of the puzzle going forward?

With that said, however, I'd hate to lose him. I know. Wishy-washy. One of my best traits. But if the Hawks can be restructured into a better team without him through some intelligent maneuvering, I would have to support the move.

I don't envy Bowman's job. He has to open cap space at the same time he trades what will be value to get a slightly cheaper player perhaps who still has to be a strong contributor--or Bowman will be getting ripped himself.

Tinkering with success is a risky proposition. Few have the courage to go there.

But something has to give, and you might want to do something before Sharp mixes in many more zero-sum games and turns a positive into a negative and transforms from a trade asset into a defanged stud, which is probably what Tiger Woods looks like right now and why he's hiding from the image police.

I know I hated that when it happened to me. Nothing more worthless than a defanged stud. Well, maybe Jay Cutler.

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36 Comments

WindyCityHockey said:

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I agree with trading Sharp for a number of reasons:

1. He vanishes during games. He doesnt even seem to want to get involved sometimes.
2. His cap hit would relieve a lot more pressure than Sopel's (and Sopel is earning his keep this year)
3. He can never seem to finish golden opportunities that are laid before him.
4. We should strike while the iron is hot. Sharp would give us a decent return.

I think a couple guys the Hawks should look at are TOR's Stajan, TBL's Halpern, and CAR's Cullen. We need to find that 2nd line center while Bolland is on IR. All are cheaper than Sharp, and UFAs after this year. I think we can pull a winger from the AHL. Then again, what do I know?

Mike Kiley said:

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You know Sharp isn't doing as much as he should and is a great chip to play if there is a winning hand available. I think that's plenty, but what do I know?

Dieter Kurtenbach said:

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Sharp would give a decent return, but that return would have to be a center, as WCH points out. It is very possible that playing center in the absence of Bolland is the reason behind Sharp's offensive lull, and it would be a win win for the Hawks if they can solve a short term problem while fixing a long term problem in the process. Trading Sharp for a expiring contract center would do just that. Would a veteran like Mike Modano be worthwhile? (hold your scoffs..) Matt Lombardi from Phoenix. Mike Comrie from Edmonton? All three also viable options to what WCH proposed.

WindyCityHockey said:

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Phoenix wants to make the playoffs, so I think Lombardi is out of the question. Modano would be just really weird, right? Comrie is not having a great year, and that would mean seeing Hilary Duff AND Vince Vaughn during every break in the action. That would just kill me. I really really really would like to have Matt Stajan from the Leafs.

Mike Kiley said:

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If Vince Vaughn gets much fatter, he and Rocky Wirtz will be twins,

Mike Kiley said:

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Problem is, how do you get that center without trading Sharp? A defenseman trade must bring back a defenseman. Buff brings a bag of donuts. Now I'm hungry.

*dan bradley said:

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I've never seen a player hit the post as often as this guy.

Forklift said:

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Gruff. I'll go with that.

Mike Kiley said:

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See, that's the kind of matchless analysis that makes Fork inimitable.

iplagitr said:

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Sharp seems to have lost some of his craftiness with the puck that caught my attention when he first came to Chicago. These days it seems like he shoots first and thinks afterwards. That's not necessarily a bad thing on a team where many other players are thinking pass. However, it seems like an overwhelming majority of Sharp's shots go directly into the center of the goalie's stick or chest with no screen in front. What's the use?

That said, I'm like Mike and I like Sharpy and his potential.... but admittedly it's not working right now.

Mike Kiley said:

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Playing with Hossa and Toews Tuesday, Sharp is going to be going all out. If he doesn't get a goal here, something's wrong.

Dave Morris said:

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Sufferin' succotash, Mike, now you want to trade Chicago's sexiest athlete?

OK, you've laid out, with your usual iconoclastic verve, the upside. And a compelling upside too, me boyo.

But consider the fallout.

Who replaces the Sharp Dressed Man as the object of Fork's (platonic) affection?

Who becomes the Hawks' practical joker, what with MadamImAdam Burish being sidelined for the foreseeable future?

And if traded and the Hawks finally get cap relief, what will the hacks at TSN have to yap about?

Inquiring minds want to know, Mike.

Now, I want to take a moment to admonish our otherwise clear-headed Hawkey Brother from Windy City Hockey. Jeff 'Help Me Rhonda' Halpern? Matt 'Don't Touch Me There' Stajan? Yikes.

As for Mr. Kurtenbach, your uncle Orland was a fine player, and one tough mofo. Hilary Duff Comrie is not.

Much as I respect your encyclopedic knowledge and penetrating insights, Doctor Kiley, I must, on this occasion, beg to differ with your diagnosis.

Just as the Gallo Brothers will sell no wine before its time, Patrick Sharp must not be sold off like a lava lamp at a garage sale.

No, IF it is decreed that The Sharpie must pack up his troubles in his old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile as he moves on down that long lonesome highway, it should be only after he has helped Les Blaque Hawques de Chicago reach the summit.

Like, this year.

Then StanBow can get a return on investment for Patrick The Sharp that would make Warren Buffett green with envy.

Mike Kiley said:

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Thank God you disagree with me. Now I know I'm right. Although I won't know what I mean until Stan The Man calls me and tells me what the deal is. I keep Sharp unless I get better.

hawktalk1979 said:

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Excuse me..... how is Sharp slumping? I'm pretty sure he has 10 points in his last 12 games. 1 Goal 9 Assists. More points then Toews, Versteeg, Byfuglien during that stretch. What a useless article. Maybe watch a game one day and see who is valuable to a team and who's not. Trade Sharp? Not a chance.

Mark Kiley said:

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Hawktalk, Sharp is paid to score goals. Assists are nice, but #10 needs to light the lamp. He is a slumping goal scorer at the moment.

He not only has value to the Hawks, but he is an attractive commodity to other NHL GM's. The price needs to be right, but Sharp should most definetly be on the block.

hawktalk1979 said:

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Well, I guess this is a blog and people are allowed to have their own opinions. I just think that if you ask anyone who knows anything about hockey, they will tell you that Sharp is not slumping. Last January? yes. Right now? No. Tune into some Canadian media, why are they considering him for Team Canada? At the end of the season when the dust settles, I fully expected a blog about how it was the right move to hang onto Sharp and how the Kiley's were wrong to say he needs to be traded.

Mike Kiley said:

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Hell, you may only have to wait until tomorrow for me to say I'm wrong if Sharp can score 2-3 goals Tuesday on the Hossa-Toews line. But if the Hawks need cap room to sign the Holy Trinity, how does that get done exactly without moving anybody good? And how do you deal for a second-line center?

Jerry Kayne said:

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Just say no to that impulse. Sharp is our utility infielder/outfielder & catcher/pitcher. I'd say he could also be a backup assistant coach. He can be plugged into any situation.

Only in Chicago do we trade the guy who does the little things? We always regret it later. Just think of any NHLer with the 1st name "former-Hawk." JP DuMont, Steve Sullivan, & Ethan Moreau quickly come to mind.

Sharp does the little things and the big things. Put him on the ice with Brouwer or Madden and Ladd or Eager see his scoring increase. He needs a banger of a center to skate with. McDonough marketing aside (see sexiest Chicago athlete), Sharp has intangibles that other players can only dream of.

If I'm understanding you correctly you think the Hawks are missing a top 6 center to win a Cup? The salary cap is the tough thing to maneuver around but where I come from you keep the vital pieces (2nd level core players) and trade or develop the rest. There's no guarantees the any team will win with the most big name talent. It's the role players that are necessary and Sharp has become a role player. And he's doing it better than most in the league. To measure him only as a scorer is very short-sighted IMHO.

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, don't be a Pulford, just say no.

PS. I'll take a bag of donuts for Buff. Or maybe a few munchkins. Everyone is so high on him we could probably trick a new GM into giving us a sleeper quality center and a bag of donuts. Get real, he still doesn't move his feet, hit anyone, handle the puck, or even look interested. He gets goals anyone could get by standing in front of the net gathering loose change. But this comment is probably "too hot to handle" for him.

Mike Kiley said:

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I think I'd rather be Pulford and get paid for sitting home and tending to my rose garden while listening to Kenny Rogers on my ipod. That is, if Pully has heard about an ipod yet. He might be linked up with the headphones to his turntable. Try listening to that while tending your rose garden.

Dave Morris said:

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Now, Mike see what you and Fork started? From ESPN today:

"The Chicago Blackhawks might have to deal Patrick Sharp to get his trio of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith under contract.

"The idea was first brought up by CBC Sport's Elliotte Friedman, and now Chicago Now writes, 'Depending on what they get in return, the Blackhawks might have to consider that trading Sharp's $3.9 million salary cap hit (through 2011-12) and his lone power-play goal (tallied way, way back on Oct. 3) could move them forward.'

"The writer known as Forklift from Hockee Night suggests the possibility of trading Sharp to Atlanta for Slava Kozlov, who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. As Chicago Now writes, 'If Forklift, who has steadily shot down Sharp trade rumors in the past with a gruff get-lost idiot, is getting involved in possible scenarios, Sharp could be next to gone.'"

Gosh, you now have 'regular folks' taking you seriously. That's right powerful stuff.

Mike Kiley said:

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Taking me seriously is everybody's first and last mistake. Where can you find that ESPN website? It might have a future.

Dave Morris said:

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Mike, ESPN's dogged digging raises other burning questions. Could "The Writer Known as Forklift" and "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" be one and the same?

Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler said:

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I don't see where trading a D-Man HAS to bring back another D-Man. I can live with Jim Hendry's son playing on the 3rd pair if Barker gets the Hawks Matt Cullen. Barker isn't even seeing much power play time anymore. Last year the Hawks did fine with the human oak tree, Matt Walker on their 2nd pair. How about Byfuglien and Barker for a 2nd line center and a NHL nomad defenseman?

Dave Morris said:

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MarkGiangreco-etc, following your line of thinking, David Koci is apparently available. You also get a Happy Meal with that purchase.

Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler said:

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That would give McDonough someone to promote this year's Blackhawks Blood Drive.

David Hager said:

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Just a little something that irks me. Why does everyone say Buff never lays a hit on anyone? According to the NHL's own player stats site he's got more hits than any other Hawk 70 followed by Brouwer's 66. If you're gonna complain about a player at least make it legit.

Mike Kiley said:

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David, I think you make a valid point. The opinion bar seems to be set high on Byfuglien. He is who we know he is. A third-line player. I guess people expect more if he is going to be played top 2 lines and crash the net for rebounds and butt obstructions. Don't get me wrong. Buff can float at times with the best of them. But I have to side with you on this. Byfuglien is everybody's favorite punching bag, although Huet gave him a run for his money for a while, and some of it is unfair.

Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler said:

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Shouldn't that Hawks sell high on a 3rd line player since he is 2nd on the team in goals and first in the team in hits. Surely, there are GM's out there foolish enough to fall in love with those statistics and incorrectly label Big Buff as a "force".

Jerry Kayne said:

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I know he hits. But he doesn't hit with a purpose. Random hitting counts on the stats but also takes him out of the play.

Consistency is what he's missing. Personally I root for Buff. I want him to do well. He makes the occasional good play. I root for him so much that I watch him when he's away from the puck, maybe too much.

Watch him tonight when he's off the puck. Watch if he covers his point on defense and skates east-west on a breakout. Watch how many times he slashes the opponent's stick rather than skate with him.

I coach and I play hockey. I'm not great at either but I can recognize a player without spirit, desire, and urgency.

Mike I'm counting on you for the recap. I have DirecTV so I'll be old-school-radio/streaming off the Hawks site.

FearlessFreep said:

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Dang Mike, looks like you really stirred up the hornet's nest with this blog entry.

The knock I've always had on Buff is that he's just too inconsistent for the role he's been asked to play, which is to use his size and create traffic in front of the net and create confusion in the offensive zone with some physical play. As Jerry Kayne mentioned in a previous entry, he doesn't move his feet and has hands of stone. Maybe he just doesn't like the role of physical presence. Maybe he's too disinterested. In any case, given the coin he's earning, and how it's affecting the cap, I'd say the Hawks are getting more mileage out of Brouwer at better price than Buff, who every game makes my comparison to Adam Creighton more credible.

I like Buff. When his mind AND body are focused in the game, he is a difference-maker. He just doesn't do it enough. But he's definitely an asset, and with Barker, you'd think the Hawks would find some interest in a swap for a second line center. As far as Sopes is concernced the Hawks will be lucky to find anybody who would take him off their hands.

Mike Kiley said:

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C'mon, Freep, you were one of the fortunate ones that saw Creighton at the top of his game with that 70-point showing in '89-'90. Just forget the rest or you'll have trouble falling asleep tonight.

FearlessFreep said:

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"Lurch" had one decent season for the Hawks. Unfortunately my memory of his later shenanigans is what has been burned in my mind since. Reminds me of how I skated when I played hockey - stiff, stupid and out of control into the corner.

Mike Kiley said:

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I think we could have a spot for you. If not, relocate to Toronto and I'm sure I can get you on the Leafs.

Dave Morris said:

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Geez, Sharp gets a goal tonight and Buff leads the team with EIGHT hits.

Oh yeah, Hawks win.

Forklift said:

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The Writer Known As Forklift is a catalyst. The spectre of Kozlov hung heavily over the United Center.

Mike Kiley said:

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Gruffly put.

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