Welcome Patrick Sharp to the trade rumor mill

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A new name has surfaced in what’s shaping up to be a wild week of rumors and speculation — Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp.

“Chicago’s now looking for a centerman, and Patrick Sharp’s available,” Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said on Tuesday. “He’s out there.

“Patrick Sharp is out there right now and we’re going to continue to hear some big names that are available.”

Chicago’s desire for a second-line center is well documented, especially after Michal Handzus’ disappointing playoff run (followed by news that the ‘Hawks were parting ways with the veteran.) Ryan Kesler has been linked to Chicago and while he’d be a tremendous upgrade, getting him on the books would require some maneuvering.

Per CapGeek, the ‘Hawks have around $4.6 million in cap space for next season with the likes of Antti Raanta, Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith needing new deals. Those won’t be especially tough — all three are RFAs — but the real issues come in 2015-16, when Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are up. The pair indicated they’re ready to re-sign in Chicago but with hefty deals already in place for Corey Crawford ($6 million annually), Brent Seabrook ($5.8), Duncan Keith ($5.5) and Marian Hossa ($5.275), something has to give…especially with the likes of Brandon Saad and Nick Leddy going RFA in ’15-16 as well.

So, back to Sharp.

While a talented forward with pedigree — he registered his fourth 30-goal campaign last season, and won a gold medal with Canada at the Olympics — he could be expendable in Chicago’s quest for a legitimate 2C. Sharp carries an annual cap hit of $5.9 million for the next three seasons and while head coach Joel Quenneville has tried him at center in the past, the results haven’t been there. As such, there’s a case to be made that an in-house candidate (Andrew Shaw? Bryan Bickell?) could ascend to a top-six role on the wing and replace Sharp — not as effectively, but definitely more cost-efficiently.

The ‘Hawks will also have to look long and hard in the prospect cupboard. They’ve taken five first-round forwards at the last four drafts (Kevin Hayes, Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, Teuvo Teravainen, Ryan Hartman) with the hope is that one will eventually be ready to fulfill a top-six role in the NHL.

If Chicago thinks one can, the idea of moving Sharp might become less daunting.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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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.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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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.

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Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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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.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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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.

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