The Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers lead the list of suitors to acquire Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, reports Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. A deal isn't close at the moment because the Hawks' asking price remains too high, though as many as eight teams "have expressed legitimate interest," per Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Sharp is expected to be traded in the next few days as a result of the Blackhawks' need to shed salary before next season. With the salary cap set at $71.4 million and big pay raises coming to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Chicago needs to move Sharp and other pieces this summer in order to fill out the rest of the roster.
The draft on Friday gives the Blackhawks reason to get a deal done soon so they can add selections to their array of picks this year. As a result of the Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen trades, which sent the team's first- and second-round picks to Arizona and Philadelphia, respectively, Chicago doesn't pick until No. 54, compensation for losing Kevin Hayes. Getting back a first-round pick for Sharp would seem to be the ideal outcome.
Each of the possible listed suitors makes sense for Sharp given that each team needs scoring punch on the wings and could fit his salary. The bigger problem may be the Hawks' asking price, which is reportedly a first-round pick plus two other pieces. Getting a high pick in the draft for Sharp would be an obvious coup for Chicago, and there's pretty much no way any team meets that ridiculous asking price. More likely, this is the Hawks bargaining to get as much as possible from a guy who's garnering interest.
Part of why the Blackhawks likely feel comfortable asking a lot for Sharp is the lack of high level talent on the free agent market. Even after a disappointing 2014-15 season in terms of point production, Sharp would be arguably the top forward on the open market if he were an unrestricted free agent. That doesn't mean Chicago will get a high pick and a whole bunch of other pieces, but it's becoming clear this won't be a straight salary dump like we might see with Bryan Bickell.