As the Blackhawks look to retool their roster, not rebuild, to steal the words of Pat Riley, the emergence of one player may have made a part of the Blackhawks core expendable.
Throughout their resurgence the strength of the Blackhawks has been at the wing position. There is no team in the NHL that can match the quality and quantity of talent that the Blackhawks have at wing.
Saad scored 19 goals and 28 assists this year in 78 games. There has been no question about the ability of Saad in the regular season. But there was still question of whether he can perform in the playoffs. In the previous playoff run, Saad recorded one goal and five assists.
This year’s playoff run marked another step in the maturation process of Saad. A similar story emerged in the first two rounds against St. Louis and Minnesota. In both series, Saad recorded all of his points (2 goals and 5 assists) in the first half of the series. However, Saad was able to score more goals than he did in the 2013 campaign by the middle of the second round.
Against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final, Saad was masterful as he put up four goals and five assists. A majority of the credit has to go to the awakening of Kane; however, Saad scored three goal and four assists in the final four games of the series. His performance against the Kings included a one goal; two assist performance in Game 5 including an assist on the game winner.
It was the performance that Blackhawks fans had been waiting to see from Saad in the postseason which is ridiculous to say of a second year player. For that reason and the fact that Saad is due a massive raise after next season when he becomes a restricted free agent, it makes Sharp expendable.
Sharp is owed $5.9 million per year over the next three years and made the Canadian Olympic team this year and led the Blackhawks in goals (34) and points (78) this season. A four time 30 goal scorer and has scored 10 or more goals in both Stanley Cup runs. Entering this season, Sharp will be 32 and although he struggled in the playoffs, he has proven himself in the clutch. There will never be a time where Sharp’s value is higher.
With extensions due to Jonathan Toews and Kane, it may be time to retool the core by trading Sharp and finally answer the number two center question. Without doubt, the Kings depth at center made life very difficult for the Blackhawks. Trading Sharp would be able to bring the Blackhawks the number two center that they could greatly use. Two targets that could be on the radar are Jason Spezza or Ryan Kesler with the possibility of Mike Richards if the Kings wanted to make a trade with the Blackhawks which won’t happen until pigs fly.
The looming extensions of Kane and Toews are a huge reason that the Blackhawks have to examine trading Sharp. Toews and Kane are expected to rightfully receive significant pay raises from their current $6.3 million salaries. There have been rumbles that Kane wants a legitimate center to play with who will be able to get him the puck. Both Kesler and Spezza fit that bill. In order to fit Kane and Toews under the cap, Sharp may need to be traded for a number two center which will make the Blackhawks deeper across the forward group.
No matter what Sharp is a part of the core, but the performance and growth of Saad have allowed the Blackhawks the luxury of considering trading Sharp for a second line center. As Saad and other young players become a part of the evolving core, it will make players like Sharp expendable.
As young players grow the Blackhawks have the nauseating decision on whether or not to use parts of the current core such as Sharp become expendable and can be used to improve the team.
For a team like the Blackhawks, if they trade Sharp, it’s not rebuilding, it’s a chance to retool on the fly. If they can get a number two center, it might be a chance that they can’t pass up.