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.

Penguins’ Guentzel makes ‘kick save’ to stop Capitals

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It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.

In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.

Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?