Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has begun discussions that will lead to the shedding of salary for next season and sources have confirmed a couple of familiar names could be among those headed out of town.
Wingers Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell, who have five Stanley Cups between them, are in play as Bowman will look to clear enough space under the NHL's $71.4 million salary cap to field a team for the 2015-16 season.
One source said the three teams most interested in Sharp, who has been a mainstay in the Blackhawks' lineup for the last decade and finished with 16 goals and 27 assists in '14-15, are the Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers.
Sharp carries a cap hit of $5.9 million and there is little doubt the 33-year-old is Bowman's main target to trade with the return most likely to be a draft pick or two, including one for the 2015 NHL draft that will begin Friday night in Sunrise, Fla.
Bickell, who has won two Cups with the Hawks and had 14 goals and 14 assists in '14-15, has a cap hit of $4 million and is another player Bowman could deal. Another source said Bickell's status remains in doubt and his return to the Hawks depends on what other players Bowman can trade in the coming days. The source put Bickell's departure from the Blackhawks at "50-50."
The 29-year-old has a limited no-trade clause in his contract and the Hawks have a list of eight teams they can send Bickell to without his permission. If they strike a deal with a team not on the list, they must clear it with Bickell first.
The Blackhawks currently have 15 players signed for the '15-16 season with cap hits totalling around $65 million. Not included in those players are restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, who are expected to get significant raises after playing big roles in the Hawks' run to the '15 Cup.