Not to pat myself on the back, but I successfully resisted the overwhelming urge to post some sort of frantic "Sharp's Down, make a trade!" article until the extent of his lower body injury became public knowledge.
Today, Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville announced that the high scoring center/winger will be out for two to three weeks.
Though certainly not the length of time that Jonathan Toews was out last year (an injury that seemingly broke the team's back, as he was out for somewhere in the neighborhood of 356 to 358 months, or at least it felt that way), this injury is none the less significant.
Another hole on the top six? It's time for Hawks GM Dale Tallon to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
In terms of events, there are three major moments during the course of a year in the NHL that define the quality of a general manager's tenure with a given team:
The Draft: This past June, Tallon nabbed even more solid talents for the pipeline. Kyle Beach looks to be a Sean Avery type with higher offensive upside and hopefully lower in the dumb things to say out loud to reporters department.
Free Agency: Tallon made some bold moves in signing power-play QB Brian Campbell and goaltender Cristobal Huet to long term deals this past summer.
The Trade Deadline: Now we enter the third phase of the season. With the March 4th trade deadline rapidly approaching, several issues with the Hawks are becoming readily apparent.
First and foremost, the Blackhawks must address the injury to Patrick Sharp. While it might be jumping the gun to suggest that Sharpie might not come back at 100 percent, ask Marion Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild about lower body injuries and their annoying tendency to linger.
On that note, the Hawks must end the $12 million two-headed goalie monster. Having both Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet on the roster was a luxury when the team didn't have glaring needs (abysmal face-off percentage aside).
The situation is different now.
With Sharp out, that leaves another gaping hole in a top six that already could have used a second line center.
Adding two top six players while remaining under the cap?
Again, this is the time of year where hockey GM's really earn their keep.
One suggestion might be found in Philadelphia. Rumors have been making the rounds lately that 35-year-old winger Mike Knuble might be available. Though a one for one swap, given Nikolai Khabibulin's contract, wouldn't work, perhaps adding goalie Martin Biron would give both teams what they need.
The Blackhawks get the top six forward they desperately need, as Knuble is on pace for somewhere between 50 and 60 points. The Flyers solve their goal-tending problem, as Khabibulin has posted vastly superior numbers to that of Philly's tandem.
All players have expiring contracts and the Flyers can more than afford the 400K difference in contracts that would be coming back to them.
Biron could be waived and sent to the minors in order to clear his 3.5 million off of the cap, thus allowing the Hawks to pursue further help on the offensive end.
After the goal-tending issue, the next set of questions revolve around the enigmas of this team.
Is Dustin Byfuglien worth his contract? Will Cam Barker find a place within the Hawks deep defensive core?
To me, these project players, given their salaries, are luxuries as well. Byfuglien makes $3 million while Barker makes $2.5 million. That's a good deal of cap space being spent on their upside. Thus far, Byfuglien's scoring is down and his ability to miss wide open nets is becoming more than a thorn in the side of Hawks faithful.
Barker has put up steady numbers thus far and only seems to be improving, but the problem is that he still hasn't really carved out his own place in the top six.
One minute he looks like a future power-play QB that is more than capable of living up to that third overall draft position. The next, he's making bad passes and mistakes that show Hawks fans that while talented, he still has a ways to go.
Then of course, he's getting benched.
Can the Hawks afford to keep spending the cap space, waiting for these players to develop into the future stars of tomorrow? Or should they use these players in order to bring in a return now?
In my previous article, I mentioned that Olli Jokinen is rumored to be available in Phoenix. Since that article, the Coyotes have gone 1-5-0 in their last six games. They are 2-8-0 in their last 10 games. The Coyotes, once thought to be a possible surprise contender, now sit in 13th place, two points out of dead last in the Western Conference.
Would the Coyotes accept a package that included Byfuglien, Barker, AHL All-Star center prospect Petri Kontiola and a draft pick in exchange for the services of Jokinen? Who knows, but if I were Dale Tallon and I am currently finding out that my leading goal scorer is going to be on the shelf for an extended period of time, I'd be making phone calls to find out what Phoenix has on their wish list in order to part with their stud center.
Though in all likelihood, I probably would've been calling in regards to a second line center already, but it's pretty easy to be yelling "I told you so" out here in the cheap seats.
Nonetheless, Tallon has some tough decisions to make in the next few weeks and I certainly don't envy him. As rejuvenated as the fan base has been this season, Tallon has no intention of selling the future for a quick fix.
On the other hand, Tallon now has two holes to fill on the offense and a rabid fan base that sees a strong playoff-caliber team in need of some quality patchwork. If the Flyers decide to go forward with their shaky goal-tending situation and Jokinen proves to be too pricey for the Hawks GM...
What then? Only Dale's paid to know for sure.
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