Blackhawks

Sharp hurt while Hawks remain winless in 2012

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Sharp hurt while Hawks remain winless in 2012

Updated: Sunday, Jan. 8 at 10:25 p.m.

The Blackhawks had several opportunities to get some breathing room over the Detroit Red Wings. They couldnt convert on enough of them, and the Wings took advantage late.

Patrick Sharp scored his 20th goal of the season for an early 2-0 lead, but the Blackhawks lost that and Sharp as they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Wings on Sunday night. The Blackhawks dropped to 0-3-1 in January and to fifth overall in the Western Conference.

The big concern at the moment is Sharp, who suffered an upper-body injury in the first period. He did not come out for the second and third periods. Coach Joel Quenneville said theyll run some tests with Sharp and know more about his status on Monday.

It was a crazy ending with Henrik Zetterberg scoring with less than five minutes in regulation to tie it and Pavel Datsyuk getting the game-winner in overtime. Corey Crawford wasnt happy with the Wings second goal.

A guy came in and lifted my stick before the puck was even near there. Thats how it went under, he said. I guess they just dont pick up on that stuff. We shouldve won that game. The guy came in and interfered. Its embarrassing.

When asked if there shouldve been some Detroit penalties late, Quenneville talked of the opportunities the Blackhawks did have and didnt capitalize on.

We had a couple of power-plays that would have been nice; would have been nice to score on the penalty shot, he said. Thats what it is: tight game, a couple of rolling pucks, one went in and one didnt go in.

Defenseman Duncan Keith concurred.

We get another (goal) there and it definitely helps us out and puts us in a better spot, he said. We had chances to score. It was close the whole way and they ended up finding a way at the end.

The Blackhawks scored two goals in 44 seconds in the first period, the first a power-play goal by Dave Bolland and the second Sharps. The Blackhawks had four power plays on the night, scoring on just that first one. They thought they scored an even-strength goal midway through the third period but video review proved inconclusive on it crossing the goal line. Jimmy Hayes was awarded a penalty shot on that play, however, but Ty Conklin stopped it.

It was a good effort by (Hayes). Its a tough situation, a lot of pressure in that circumstance, but it doesnt have to come down to that, Jonathan Toews said. Weve got to find a way to close out 60 minutes and play hard the way we did in the first two and protect that one-goal lead.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, considering the Blackhawks played the type of game they wanted. Theyve left points out there to start this month and theyve lost some ground in the West. They know there are improvements to be made, but theyre not panicking.

That race weve had, we might have been ahead of those teams but it wasnt like we were light years ahead of them, Quenneville said. Its a one-, two-point swing here, everybodys in the mix. I see this battle going on all year and the conference is tightening up as well. We did give away a lot of ground here this week and its up to us to regain where were at.

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

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USA TODAY

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

The NHL Draft is over. Farm systems have been restocked and now the focus has shifted to free agency, where the fun is just beginning.

The biggest fish on the market is John Tavares, a franchise-changing center in the heart of his prime. For a little bit, it seemed like the loyal New York Islanders captain was ready to move on after they took another step back by missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

But then Lou Lamiorello became available and was snatched up by Long Island. His first order of business was relieving GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties, the first real sign that significant changes were coming. The next was securing Barry Trotz as head coach after he couldn't agree to terms on an extension with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

For the first time in a while, there appears to be structure in the front office and coaching staff.

Yet, Tavares has remained committed to visiting with reportedly five teams in Los Angeles during the free agent negotiating window that opened Sunday. And he's absolutely earned that right. San Jose and Toronto are believed to be two of the teams. The rest is unclear.

When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle at the end of the draft on Saturday, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wouldn't confirm nor deny that they were one of the teams scheduled to meet with Tavares.

"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile.

Whether or not they are, could the Blackhawks realistically even make it work?

They actually have the cap space to do it. Or at least they can make room without shuffling too many cards.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have $9.225 million in open cap space to fill out six roster spots. If you can find a trade partner for Marian Hossa's contract, that creates an extra $5.275 million, which brings the total up to $14.5 million. That's without subtracting any real bodies from the roster. 

Tavares is likely to command in the $10 million range for average annual value over the next seven years, and the latter part is key. While it would certainly be challenging to have three players eating up at least $10 million each in cap space — with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at $10.5 million — they could make it work in the short term.

But signing Tavares to a seven-year deal would probably get in the way of the Blackhawks' longer-term goals, which includes re-signing Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz when their entry-level deals expire and even Vinnie Hinostroza when his new two-year contract ends.

Are the Blackhawks willing to risk that?

For Tavares, maybe. But Toews is 30, Kane is 29 and Tavares will be 28 by the time this upcoming season starts. At some point, an infusion of youth would be required to remain competitive for the long term.

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

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USA TODAY

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

The unrestricted free agent market opens up for the NHL on July 1. Five-time All-Star John Tavares is will reportedly be meeting with five different teams to talk about the possibility of leaving the only team he's played for his entire career, the New York Islanders. 

After a highly disappointing 33-39-10 finish to the 2017-18 season, many expect Chicago general manager Stan Bowman to be very aggressive this offseason. When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle if the Blackhawks would be one of the five teams going after Tavares, Bowman gave a very reticent answer.

"I woudn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile. 

"No, I'm not going to comment on that, but I know we're gonna have a lot of discussions over the next five or six days and we'll see where it goes."

Reports indicate that the Islanders and Tavares had been trying to work out the terms of a long-term extension, but with so many attractive options out there, it will be a tough decision for him. There are several teams coming off of playoff runs expected to go after Tavares, including Tampa Bay, Las Vegas and San Jose. In addition to those teams, his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to be in play as well.

But Chicago's rough year was so out of place for a team so used to winning consistently, that one can imagine their pitch will be enticing.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada had this to say about the Blackhawks potential pursuit of Tavares: "They're not going to tolerate being that bad again, they're going to try something. I think they'll make a run at John Tavares too. I do, I think they'll ask, is there any way we can get him here?"

When taking all of this into account, it is sure to be an extremely exciting free agency period for the Blackhawks. The team is in full "re-tool" rather than "rebuild" mode, and there have been discussions that Kane may be becoming the more vocal leader of the team. But the addition of Tavares to a core of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford could boost the Blackhawks back into Stanley Cup contention.