The great Chicago fire-sale of 2010 has died down a bit lately but the speculation going into who may be dealt next from the defending Stanley Cup champions rages on. As the Blackhawks hope to get a deal to get worked out with goaltender Antti Niemi lest they end up in arbitration, the main focus of many trade rumors in Chicago has been winger Patrick Sharp. Sharp’s name always seems to find its way into trade discussion and by now Patrick Sharp has probably heard about enough of it. He can rest easy now because Hawks GM Stan Bowman says that Sharp isn’t going anywhere.
“I told (Sharp) he can relax, he’s not going anywhere,” Bowman said before the premiere of “Chicago Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup Championship” DVD at Navy Pier. “He’s a big part of this. He means a lot to us on the ice and off the ice.”
Getting the blessing directly from the general manager can certainly do a lot to ease your mind. Speaking of that whole pesky Niemi situation, if things don’t break the right way with the Blackhawks, things could get dicey.
Bowman said he spoke with Niemi’s agent, Bill Zito, on Monday and it’s still possible a deal will be made before the goalie’s arbitration hearing July 29. The team could sign Niemi before the hearing or let an arbitrator set the price for the goalie who helped lead the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years and is in line for a substantial raise from his $826,875 salary of last season.
The team could also walk away from the decision and let Niemi go as an unrestricted free agent. With the Hawks already up against the cap and needing to sign more players, if Niemi is brought back it’s likely another player would have to be traded.
“We’ll have to find a way to make it work,” Bowman said. “It’s a challenge. We’ll figure it out.
“I’ll tell you one thing, we’ll be ready come October and we’ll have a good team.”
At least Bowman is confident about everything, so at least he’s got that going for him.
The Hawks, for the most part, have all of their key players still returning. Parting ways with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, or Duncan Keith would leave a definitive hole in the lineup, but retaining Sharp is one way to make sure you can keep two solid scoring lines going throughout the year. As for fans and other teams circling like vultures, don’t expect that to end anytime soon. The Hawks have shown they’re OK with making deals and they’ve still got players other teams covet. The only way the talk shifts is if the Hawks walk away from Niemi’s potential arbitration award and make him a free agent, that’s when free agent goalie talk and second-guessing can begin.