Patrick Sharp #10 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks on in the first period of Game Three of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on June 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
(June 3, 2013 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

On Patrick Sharp’s future in Chicago

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The Blackhawks know all about being in salary cap hell.

Following their Stanley Cup win in 2010, the club was forced to trade away a number of key contributors — Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg — as there just wasn’t enough money to go around.

Now it seems a similar situation — albeit less hellish — could be unfolding. The ‘Hawks currently sit $2.2 million over the salary cap for next season and, even after they get that number down prior to the season starting in October, they’ll face additional money concerns moving forward.

Why? The ‘Hawks made history last month by making Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane the first $10 million hits in the cap era. The financial breakdown, per CapGeek:

source:

As you can see, it’s a substantial financial commitment. And Chicago has more than a few of those.

Hefty deals are already in place for Corey Crawford ($6 million annually), Brent Seabrook ($5.8), Duncan Keith ($5.5), Marian Hossa ($5.275) and, of course, Patrick Sharp, who’ll pull in $5.9 million until 2017. The problem for Chicago GM Stan Bowman, though, is what’s on the horizon — the club will have just 15 players under contract for $65 million in 2015-16, and there are some big negotiations down the road. Brandon Saad, a budding star in his own right, will need a new deal after next season; same goes for versatile center Marcus Kruger and offensive defenseman Nick Leddy — all of whom are currently 24 or younger and represent a good part of the club’s future.

So, back to Sharp.

His name first surfaced as a potential trade target prior to the July 1 free agent frenzy, and we discussed the possibility of him moving to the offensively-challenged Panthers (as part of the popular Chicago-to-Florida pipeline). Florida aside, it stands to reason a number of teams would be interested in his services — at 32, he’s coming off arguably his finest individual campaign, notching a career-best 78 points while helping Canada win gold at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Sharp’s also a goalscorer, and that alone makes him a prized commodity. He’s cracked 30 in each of his last three full seasons with Chicago and has been a pretty solid playoff contributor, leading the team with 10 goals en route to the ’13 Stanley Cup. Natural scorers are hard to come by; there were only 21 guys in the NHL last year to score 30 goals or more.

That, really, is why Sharp’s name came up in discussions. Of the “expendable” assets Chicago has, he’s probably more alluring than Hossa because 1) he’s three years younger, and 2) doesn’t have Hossa’s back-diving contract structure, which could be huge in terms of cap recapture penalties. And that’s going on the assumption Hossa would even be available, which he doesn’t appear to be.

While it’s true Sharp has a modified no-trade clause, it might not be enough to keep him from moving on.

But… would Chicago actually deal him?

Make no mistake, losing Sharp would hurt. He’s been with the organization for nine years (has a local radio show and everything), serves as an alternate captain and it would be remarkably difficult to acquire equal value in any sort of trade. Like we’ve seen in the past, however, the ‘Hawks may be forced to make the hard move now for an easier financial future.

As for the man himself, Sharp was on hand for the purge of four years ago and understands how things work.

“There’s going to be talk, discussion, rumors — it’s part of the business,” he said in mid-July, per the Chicago Tribune. “But I think what my agent (Rick Curran) said was pretty self-explanatory. I’ve been able to get away from hockey and kind of relax a little bit.

“If you start worrying about it and start paying attention to all the speculation and rumors, you’re going to drive yourself crazy. It’s my job to play hockey, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

So it looks like Mike Ribeiro is a healthy scratch for the Predators

Nashville Predators' Mike Ribeiro (63) gets off a pass as he lies on the ice during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Mike Ribeiro isn’t playing in Game 3 for the Nashville Predators against the San Jose Sharks, and it doesn’t appear to be for health reasons.

Well, his production hasn’t been very healthy.

The polarizing playmaker has only mustered a single assist and zero goals in nine playoff games; Ribeiro hasn’t scored a point against the Sharks so far.

Ribeiro isn’t exactly known for his offensive acumen, either, so there’s not much motivation to keep him in the lineup if he isn’t producing offense. Ultimately, it’s easy to see why he’s a healthy scratch.

Pontus Aberg looks to make his NHL debut via this big playoff game while Craig Smith is believed to play.

It should be interesting to see how Nashville responds to this challenge.

WATCH LIVE: Game 3 of Sharks – Predators, Stars – Blues

Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) skates with the puck against St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) during the first period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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The Nashville Predators hope to get back in their series now that the San Jose Sharks are visiting “Smashville.” Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars and Blues jostle for a 2-1 lead in St. Louis.

You can keep up with Game 3 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders (which is in progress) right here and on NBCSN.

Game 3 of Sharks – Predators is on USA Network and can be streamed via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Finally, Game 3 of Stars – Blues airs on NBCSN. Keep an eye out for notes if there’s overlap with Bolts – Isles (which would bump it temporarily to NHL Network), but either way, you can stream the action below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Video: Jonathan Drouin shaken up by huge Thomas Hickey hit

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Jonathan Drouin‘s strong playoff play has been a big story for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but his health is in question after taking a huge hit on Tuesday.

As you can see from the video above, Drouin was shaken up by an enormous check from New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey. It’s believed that Drouin went to “The Quiet Room” to see if he suffered a concussion; PHT will pass along whatever information becomes available.

(NHL teams aren’t exactly forthcoming with this information.)

The Islanders actually ended up with a power play from the fallout, as Hickey’s hit didn’t earn a penalty. The general reaction is that it wasn’t a dirty hit, yet some might disagree with that sentiment.

Update: Drouin didn’t come out during the beginning of the third period. He did, however, return midway through the final frame.

2016 Foundation Player Award finalists: Giordano, Martin, Subban

Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban walks away after taking with reporters during an end of season availability at the team training facility Monday, April 11, 2016 in Brossard, Quebec. None of the seven Canadian NHL teams was good enough this season to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, a dismal milestone in the home of modern hockey and the first time it has happened since the 1969-70 season. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The NHL named the three finalists for the 2016 Foundation Player Award on Tuesday: Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, New York Islanders forward Matt Martin and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

The awarded is handed to “an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.”

The winner gets to hand $25K to the charity of his choice.