Patrick Sharp

Patrick Sharp signs long-awaited contract extension with Chicago for five years, $29.5 million

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Chicago’s Patrick Sharp was shaping up to be one of the more intriguing unrestricted free agents next summer if he made it that far. The Blackhawks and GM Stan Bowman were determined to make sure that didn’t happen, however, and have signed their scoring stud to a five-year contract extension.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweets that the deal has a cap hit of $5.9 million per season which works out to a deal worth $29.5 million over the course of the term. The annual amount is good for a $2 million raise on what he’s making this season. It’s a hefty cap hit and payout, but Sharp’s play in Chicago, especially last season has made him invaluable to the franchise.

Sharp has been one of the most encouraging players in Chicago the last few seasons. Since joining Chicago from Philadelphia back in 2006, he’s been the perfect fit with the team and their system. In his time in Chicago, he’s scored 150 goals over five and a half seasons including a career high 36 in 2007-2008 and 34 last season which led the Blackhawks in goals.

While it could be easy for some players to get lost playing alongside guys like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa, Sharp has thrived in Chicago and his play in the playoff in 2010 helped lead the team to the Stanley Cup. Sharp’s signing also means the core of stars in Chicago are all locked up from Toews, Hossa, Kane, Duncan Keith, Dave Bolland, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. The tough part of Bowman’s job now comes in trying to balance the salary cap around all of those players.

Sharp’s presence in Chicago is one that has him as a consistently solid player on the ice. While the Blackhawks dealt with injuries and some inconsistency from other star players, Sharp was a constant threat to score all season long and even parlayed that great play into being named the MVP of the 2011 All-Star Game as well.

Sharp’s deal is going to pay him a lot of scratch and he’ll have to keep his level of production where it has been the last two seasons scoring more than 65 points per season. If he can keep the goal scoring level where it was at last season and mix in the playmaking ability he showed two seasons ago when he had 41 assists, the deal will be perfect for Chicago. In this case, the Blackhawks are paying up for consistent play and keeping a guy that makes them better on a nightly basis.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.