Stan Bowman: Patrick Sharp isn't going to be traded

patricksharp2.jpgThe 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.

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    ‘It’s just a formality’: Erik Karlsson talks about submitting 10-team no-trade list

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    There has been plenty of speculation regarding the future of Erik Karlsson over the last few days.

    On Tuesday, the speculation took an interesting twist as Karlsson spoke to the media for the first time since a report surfaced about him being asked to submit a 10-team no trade list to management.

    “That’s one of the things that’s in my contract and it’s just a formality and it’s business. I don’t read too much into it,” said Karlsson, per the Ottawa Sun.

    Karlsson might not read much into it, but the fact that the Senators have allowed this situation to get to this point is mind-boggling.

    Sure, the Swedish blue liner might not want to take a discount to stay in Ottawa, but he’s arguably one of the top three players in the game. Are the Sens really willing to make a franchise-altering trade because the face of their organization isn’t willing to take a few million dollars less?

    Of course, this might just be a negotiating tactic. Maybe they believe that the threat of trading him will scare him into taking less money, but that’s a pretty silly way of thinking. On the flip side, asking him to submit his no-trade list could theoretically turn him off, too.

    “It varies from person-to-person and from personality-to-personality,” added Karlsson. “When you’re in the situation we’re in right now, I’ve been through it before, so I’ve seen multiple different scenarios. I’m probably better dealing with it than some of the other guys.”

     There’s no doubt that the Senators are struggling mightily right now. Although it’s still early, the Matt Duchene trade has been a complete flop. Not only is Duchene not producing, the Sens, as a team, have seemingly forgotten how to win.

    Ottawa has dropped four games in a row, and since coming back from their sweep of the Avalanche in Stockholm, Sweden, they’ve won just one of their 12 last games.

    They need to shake things up, but trying to rattle Karlsson’s cage is not the way to get it done.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Inconsistency is the only consistent thing about the Canadiens

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    The 2017-18 edition of the Montreal Canadiens has been underwhelming at best. The only thing that’s been consistent about them is their lack of consistency.

    On some nights, they look like a team that should have no problem making the playoffs. Other times, they look like a squad that should be picking in the top five of next summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

    Through 31 games, they own a 13-14-4 record, but how they got there is the most interesting part.

    Let’s forget the fact that five of those wins have come against the Sabres (three times) and Red Wings (twice). Hey, in the NHL, a win is a win. But the Canadiens have rarely not been on some kind of positive or negative streak this season.

    After opening the season with an overtime win in Buffalo, Montreal went on to lose seven games in a row. They ended that skid at home against Florida, followed that up with a loss to the Los Angeles Kings and then went on to win five of their next contests.

    That hot run came to an end with a 3-0 loss at home to the Minnesota Wild. In fairness to the Canadiens, they didn’t have Carey Price, Shea Weber and Jonathan Drouin in that game. But after beating Buffalo in their next game, they went on to lose five in a row to Columbus, Arizona, Toronto (they were obliterated 6-0 in that one), Dallas, and Nashville before snapping the skid against (you guessed it) the Sabres.

    The game against Buffalo was the night Carey Price returned to the lineup. Price’s return sparked the Canadiens and they went on to win their next four games over Columbus, Ottawa and they beat Detroit twice, including a 10-1 drubbing at the Bell Centre.

    After the blowout win over the Wings, a lot of people thought they had turned the corner. Instead, they followed up the win over Detroit with home losses to St. Louis, Calgary and Edmonton. Saturday’s loss to the Oilers was beyond embarrassing, as they were totally dominated in front of their fans.

    “Well, if I knew, I certainly would’ve done something about (the Canadiens’ streaky play),” head coach Claude Julien said after the loss to the Oilers. “It is frustrating. We had a good stretch there, but this week has been a tough week for us. At the end of the day, you have to be better than you were tonight.”

    There’s a number of reasons for Montreal’s lack of consistency. They’ve dealt with injuries to key players like Drouin, Price, Weber, David Schlemko and Artturi Lehkonen, but every team goes through that.

    Their goaltending was brutal early on, and that certainly didn’t help during their tough start to the year. Also, the fact that 5-on-5 scoring doesn’t come easy to them is another reason why they don’t produce with any regularity. They’re also lacking some mobility on defense, which isn’t exactly ideal for today’s NHL.

    And, of course, the fact that their two streakiest scorers have been “off” more than they’ve been “on” has really hurt them. Both Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk haven’t scored nearly enough. Pacioretty has eight goals in 31 games, while Galchenyuk has seven goals in 31 contests. Both have scored 30-plus goals in recent reasons.

    The one thing going for the Canadiens is that the third spot in the Atlantic Division is up for grabs. Yes, the Bruins currently have four games in hand on Montreal and a two-point lead in the standings, but those old rivals will be going head-to-head three times in just over a week during the month of January.

    As ugly as the season has been at times, the Habs still in it.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    NHL ON NBCSN: Lightning, Blues square off in battle of NHL’s best

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    NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Tuesday night, as the St. Louis Blues host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 8 p.m. ET. You can stream the game by clicking here.

    The Lightning and Blue have consistently been two of the best teams in the NHL since opening night.

    A healthy Tampa side has scored at will with a league-best 110 goals through 29 games and the Blues have been powered by Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and the now-injured Jordan Schwartz. Both teams have the fire power, but they also have played some very stingy defense, thanks to goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jake Allen.

    The Blues enter Tuesday night’s game banged up and missing Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo, who was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, so depth will be tested. Schenn’s production may also be affected as Schwartz has assisted on half of his 16 goals. And as Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic pointed out this morning, St. Louis averaged 3 goals per game with Schwartz and 2.36 goals when he wasn’t in the lineup.

    [WATCH LIGHTNING-BLUES LIVE ON NBCSN]

    Tampa hits the road following an undefeated four-game homestand. Their last road trip away from Amalie Arena ended with a 1-3-0 record and only seven total goals scored. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper won’t have last change to get his preferred matchups on the ice, so will he find himself splitting up Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos at times to spread out the offensive threat?

    “We’ve done what we had to at home,” Cooper said via the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we have to do it on the road, and it’s much tougher with all the travel we have to do, especially where we are here. So, we have to learn from what we did on the road before, what we have to do to prepare, but this is a good way to jump-start that.”

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson hits ‘reset button’ after healthy scratch

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    The reset button has been hit and Cam Atkinson will return to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ lineup Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

    Atkinson, who has six goals and nine points in 25 games this season, was made a healthy scratch on Saturday, three weeks after signing a seven-year, $40.25 million extension. John Tortorella’s decision to sit the forward who scored 35 goals last season wasn’t a hard one for the head coach, mainly because the player forced the issue.

    “This isn’t to kick a player,” Tortorella said on Monday. “Cam Atkinson is a very important player, and especially for this coach. He’s in every situation, and that’s what I think of him as a player.”

    It wasn’t an easy past couple of days for Atkinson. An embarrassing scratch not long after inking a big extension wasn’t an ideal way to show off his worth to the franchise. But on Sunday he received a text from Martin St. Louis, an off-season Connecticut golf buddy and someone who knows pretty well how Tortorella operates. For more than a half hour the former Tampa Bay Lightning star reminded the 28-year-old that he’s a good player and that the franchise has an incredible amount of confidence in him, as displayed by the contract they just handed him.

    [Blue Jackets bet big on Cam Atkinson]

    Since Saturday’s scratch, Atkinson had stayed on the ice after skates working on his shot and getting extra touches with the puck to try and restore his confidence. There was time spent watching video, too. And just as important, there was plenty of communication with Tortorella.

    “It’s one of those things where once you go down that dark alley, one thing leads to another and it’s hard to get out of it,” Atkinson said. “It’s not so much pointing the fingers, but sometimes you tend to blame your teammates or linemates and that’s something you can’t do. It’s something I’ve tried not to do… Being a healthy scratch was probably the best thing for me.”

    There’s more than one Blue Jackets player struggling at the moment, which Tortorella admits is a failure on his part to find a way to get them going again. To the head coach, scratching a player isn’t a form of punishment, it’s a way to help.

    Atkinson has hit the 20-goal mark in each of the last four seasons, so it’s not like he’s a lost cause or being crushed under the weight of his extension. Now, after a night in the press box, he knows he needs to respond.

    “Obviously, you never want to be a healthy scratch, but it gives you a chance to reassess and hit the reset button, realize where you are at that point in time in the season and what you need to do to get better,” Atkinson said.

    “It’s a wake-up call. I take full responsibility. I know I need to be way better, and I will be.”

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.