Crowded at center, Flyers trade Sharp to the Blackhawks

Posted: December 06, 2005

The Flyers and Blackhawks surprisingly swapped part of their futures last night as center Patrick Sharp was sent to Chicago for rookie right winger Matt Ellison.

The Hawks also received 29-year-old Phantoms winger Eric Meloche in the deal. The Flyers got a third-round pick in the 2006 draft.

Sharp, 23, played in 22 games this season, collecting five goals and three assists, but he was seldom used by coach Ken Hitchcock, who gave him barely eight minutes of ice time a night.

The Flyers have too many centers and too few wingers.

"We felt that with all the injuries we have had that Matt would bring more versatility to our lineup," said Bob Clarke, the Flyers' general manager. "He can play center and wing. We always felt that Patrick was a better center. We have lots of centers, even though we have some injuries right now. We just felt that Matt was a better fit for our team, although we realize that we gave up a good young player."

Hitchcock said that he didn't like using R.J. Umberger or Mike Richards at winger. With the expected return of Peter Forsberg by next week, the center spot will be crowded again.

"Patrick is a natural center, not a wing, and we have too many centers," Hitchcock said. "That's all this is about. We had too many centers."

The 6-foot, 192-pound Ellison, who is 21, had similar numbers in Chicago - three goals and nine assists in 26 games. While Sharp was at plus-4, Ellison was a minus-4 on a rebuilding and very much rejuvenated Blackhawks club. He was the fourth-round pick in the 2002 draft.

Ellison played for Brent Sutter at Red Deer, where he was a 40-goal scorer and the Western Hockey League player of the year in 2001. Sutter has a history of turning out players who are tough as nails and go through walls, which appeals to the Flyers. Ellison has played in 36 NHL games, while Sharp, a third-round pick in the 2001 draft, has played in 66.

"This kid can play," Hitchcock said of Ellison.

Meloche, who also played in the Penguins' organization, had one goal and two assists for the Phantoms this season.

Contact staff writer Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847 or tpanaccio@phillynews.com.

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