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Hawks know they won't all be together much longer
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Blackhawks' defenseman Brent Seabrook holds the Stanley Cup as the Chicago Cubs honor the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions before the start of Sunday's game against the White Sox.


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Published: 6/13/2010 9:20 PM

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The Blackhawks continued to enjoy the Stanley Cup and each other Sunday, knowing this particular group won't be together too much longer.

With the draft less than two weeks away, it's trade season in the NHL, and general manager Stan Bowman is expected to be a busy man with teams calling looking to help the Hawks deal with their significant salary-cap problem.

"It's going to be a tough couple weeks if players do leave," Patrick Sharp said. "We've just got to enjoy right now and celebrate as much as we can."

The rumor mill already is churning with Sharp's name being mentioned in several places. The 28-year-old center has two years left on his contract with a cap hit of $3.9 million, which is an attractive price for one of the game's premier two-way players.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets are believed to be very interested in Sharp should the Hawks decide to move him. Sharp could bring the most in return for the Hawks in terms of a high draft pick or top prospect.

"Sharp is a guy any team would love to have," a league executive said during the Stanley Cup Finals. "He might not be an elite player, but he's just a notch below. There are no flaws in his game."

Nobody knows what Bowman and his staff is thinking when it comes to players they might look to move, whether it's Sharp, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell or others.

"I heard all those rumors since the start of last season and took it upon myself to block them out of my mind and not read too much into it," Sharp said. "I like to think I have a good relationship with Stan and Joel (Quenneville), and whatever happens is going to happen. I can't make the decision on that."

Based on Byfuglien's difference-making play in the playoffs, his size and his versatility, the Hawks are likely to keep the winger, who has one year left on his contract at $3 million.

Versteeg has two years remaining on his deal at $3 million. There has been speculation the Edmonton Oilers would be interested in talking to the Hawks about the versatile winger.

The Hawks have big money tied up in Campbell, who has six years left on his contract with a cap hit of $7.1 million. There may or may not be a team out there looking to take on that money, not that the Hawks will be looking to move the speedy defenseman.

However, if you remove Campbell's $7.1 million and Cristobal Huet's $5.62 million cap hits from the books, the Hawks would be in much better shape.

The problem, of course, is the Hawks have $58.8 million committed to just 14 players for 2010-11, which includes Jonathan Toews' $1.3 million bonus for winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

John Madden, Adam Burish, Kim Johnsson and Nick Boynton are unrestricted free agents. Madden and Boynton almost certainly are gone. Johnsson has no chance of returning.

"We've had a few moments where the guys are together and we realize we're not going to be together and a lot of guys are going to be moving in different directions," Madden said. "We wish we could stay together, but the cap issue is going to be a problem, not only for us, but other teams, too.

"We have a good team, we have great guys and unfortunately we have to move on."

The restricted free agents are Antti Niemi, Andrew Ladd, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Jack Skille, Bryan Bickell and Jordan Hendry.

Niemi's winning the Cup throws a wrench into the Hawks' money picture. He made $827,000 this season and could be looking for a huge raise, likely to be at least $3 million a year.

"I don't want to talk about that right now," Niemi said. "It's something we'll have to talk to my agent and team about."