The Chicago Blackhawks traded forward Patrick Sharp and minor-league defenseman Stephen Johns to the Dallas Stars in exchange for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was inevitable the Blackhawks would trade the 33-year-old Sharp. They were sitting above next season’s $71.4 million cap hit by roughly $715K. Not only did they need to shed salary to become cap compliant, they also had to free up cap space to re-sign restricted free agent center Marcus Kruger and fill out their remaining roster spots. 

Patrick Sharp dealt to the Dallas Stars.

Patrick Sharp dealt to the Dallas Stars.

The Stars will retain 50 percent of Garbutt’s salary and cap hit (both are $1.8 million for 2015-16), meaning the cap hit is 900K per season for the Blackhawks. The addition of Daley now gives the ‘Hawks six defensemen under contract for next season. It remains to be seen if this means they’ve given up hope of bringing UFA blueliner Johnny Oduya back into the fold. Garbutt, 29, is a physical depth winger but sometimes takes undisciplined penalties. Last season, his questionable tactics earned him two suspensions totaling five games. 

It’s surprising the Stars opted to pick up Sharp, as it was assumed their primary objective this summer was bolstering their defense corps. Having dealt away Daley, they might still do this. Even by taking on Sharp’s cap hit and retaining half of Garbutt’s salary, the Stars still have over $6.9 million in cap space. The question is, does management wish to invest it in adding a skilled veteran blueliner via trade or free agency? 

Sharp should provide much-needed scoring depth to the Stars second line. He’s only a year removed from a career-best 78-point season. While it’s debatable if he’ll ever reach those numbers again, he should still be capable of averaging 20-25 goals and 50-55 points per season over the remaining two years of his contract. Sharp will also provide considerable playoff experience to a Stars team hoping to establish itself as a perennial playoff contender. 

Despite this deal, the Blackhawks aren’t out of cap hell yet. While barely under the salary cap, they only have 21 players under contract for next season. Kruger still needs to be re-signed and they’ll still need to re-sign or replace Oduya. It’s possible another winger, like Bryan Bickell ($4 million) or Kris Versteeg ($2.2 million) could be dealt later this summer.