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Happy with Hawks, Sharp deals with rumors
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

It's believed the Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks are at least two of the teams interested in Hawks forward Patrick Sharp


Associated Press file

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Published: 7/20/2009 12:01 AM

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Patrick Sharp is a lot of things to the Blackhawks - one of their most popular players, a dependable goal scorer and a leader in the dressing room.

Is expendable about to be added to that list?

On a team that still needs an experienced defenseman, with a lot of forwards who do the same things and salary cap issues, Sharp remains a prime candidate to be traded if you believe the rumors that won't go away.

It's believed the Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks are at least two of the teams interested in the 28-year-old Sharp, who carries a cap hit of $3.9 million for the next three seasons.

"It's not something in my control," Sharp said of the rumors this weekend at the Hawks fan convention. "It's something I learned early on as a pro that you worry about the things you can control and other than that there's no use worrying about it."

Sharp and his teammates can do the math. While the Hawks would be barely under the NHL's $56.8 million salary cap if the 2009-10 season started today, there are problems ahead.

Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane will be looking for new contracts after next season and there is only about $13 million coming off the books. General manager Stan Bowman already has said decisions must be made eventually about which players to keep because everyone can't stay.

"Everyone knows the situation, but my job is to be a hockey player," Sharp said. "Right now I'm a Chicago Blackhawk, I'm happy to be one and that's where my focus is."

Toews and Kane downplayed their contract status at the convention but recognized that it's impossible for successful teams to stay together in this era of the salary cap.

"You have to plan for the future and what's going to happen a couple years from now," Toews said.

"I hope they can find a way to keep this team together," Kane said.

What was a tight dressing room last season already has undergone some change with the departures of Martin Havlat, Nikolai Khabibulin, Matt Walker and Sammy Pahlsson.

The Hawks tried to re-sign Walker, but they weren't willing to give him the same four-year, $6.8 million contract he got in Tampa Bay. Replacing Walker's size on the blue line is why the Hawks might be willing to part with one or more of their forwards.

"As players we don't get paid to crunch those numbers," Adam Burish said of the salary cap talk surrounding the team. "Hopefully they can find a way to keep guys, but at the same time they can't and that's part of the business. Next year, like this year, not everybody is going to be back. It's not going to be the same guys sitting next to you every year."

Bowman is the guy getting pair to figure things out and would prefer the players not worry about who might be staying or going.

"It's got nothing to do with them," Bowman said. "When the puck drops before every game they have to be focused on the game. The rest will take care of itself.

"I'm going to make sure they're aware of that. There are lots of questions from (the media) about the salary cap, I know the fans are concerned about and I'm concerned about it because that's my job. Their job is to play hockey. We just have to keep them on track and not let it get to them."