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Stan Bowman: Sharp to stay put

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

Some of the Chicago Blackhawks got together to Monday relive the Stanley Cup as the championship DVD was released at Navy Pier in an elaborate ceremony.

And while the day was about what had been accomplished, news of what lies ahead for the champions also found its way into the mix.

Perhaps the most important of that news -- especially to the Blackhawks faithful -- is that fan favorite Patrick Sharp, who had 25 goals and 41 assists last season and is one of the Chicago's best all-round players -- is not going anywhere, according to Chicago GM Stan Bowman.

"I saw Sharpy in the office (Monday); he stopped by,'' Bowman told Adam Jahns of the Sun Times. "I told him he can relax. He's not going anywhere. He's a big part of this. He means a lot to us on the ice and off the ice.''

That must have been music to the ears of Sharp, who has been prominent in the rumor mill as Chicago continues to find a way to get under the salary cap during an offseason that already has seen several regulars -- including Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and Brent Sopel -- shipped out of town to lessen the salary crunch.

"It's always tough to see guys get traded to other teams," Sharp told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. "It's tough during the season (and) it's tough after. We can always look back and know we won a championship together. I'm happy to be a Blackhawk and proud to be one and plan on playing here next season."

The idea of Sharp being moved gained steam last week after the Blackhawks matched an offer sheet tendered to restricted free-agent defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson by the San Jose Sharks.

That deal, for four years and $14 million, put the Hawks precariously close to the 10 percent overage on the $59.4 million cap teams are allowed to carry throughout the summer. And to make things more difficult, the team still has to sign starting goalie Antti Niemi, who filed for arbitration.

Niemi's arbitration hearing is scheduled for July 29, but both Bowman and Niemi's agent, Bill Zito, have made public proclamations that each side would like to have a deal in place before the hearing.
If not, an arbitrator will decide how much Niemi, who backstopped Chicago to its first title in 49 years, will make for the coming season. It's a safe bet he'll get a substantial raise on the $826,875 he made last season.

If an arbitrator gives Niemi a more sizeable than expected raise, Chicago likely will have to jettison even more players. Or they can walk away from the arbitrator's decision and allow the goalie to become an unrestricted free agent.

Bowman has been refreshingly candid in the problems his team has faced in trying to keep the club together in the wake of June's championship. Monday, he admitted he still doesn't have all the answers.

''As of right now, we don't have a solution yet, but we've got ideas,'' Bowman told Jahns.
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