It’s a Windy City reunion for Patrick Sharp and the Blackhawks. After two seasons in Dallas, Sharp has inked a one-year, $1-million deal to return to Chicago.
When free agency kicked off last summer, the Chicago Blackhawks went out and brought back a familiar face, Brian Campbell, on a one-year, team-friendly deal, and GM Stan Bowman has pulled the trigger on another similar deal at the start of free agency this season, inking former Blackhawk Patrick Sharp to a one-year, $1-million deal.
Bringing Sharp back into the fold is surely a somewhat sentimental signing for Chicago, especially considering his importance to the Blackhawks’ run of three Stanley Cups in six seasons. Next to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Sharp was one of the offensive faces of the franchise, a consistent 20-goal scorer who eclipsed the 30-goal plateau four times in the Windy City. It’s fair to wonder if Sharp can really bring the same level of offense to the Blackhawks this time around, though.
Now 35, Sharp’s offense has taken a bit of a dive over the past three seasons. After netting 34 goals and 78 points in 2013-14, Sharp managed 16 goals and 43 points in 2014-15, 20 goals and 55 points in 2015-16 and only eight goals and 18 points while playing bottom-six minutes for the Dallas Stars this past season. Even with the dip in production, though, Sharp can certainly bring some value to the Blackhawks.
With the losses of Marian Hossa and Artemi Panarin — who was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad — this summer, Chicago is going to be looking for some additional goal scoring and a player who can move up and down the lineup to play alongside Toews and Kane. Sharp can fit that bill. He may not have the same speed or productivity that he’s had in the past, but Sharp also shot a mere 5.5 percent last season. There’s a good chance that sees an uptick as he’s averaged an 8.4 shooting percentage over his past five campaigns.
Where Sharp can help most of all, though, is on the power play. Losing Panarin, who was a one-timer triggerman and Kane’s on-ice spiritual twin, hurts the Blackhawks’ attack with the extra man. He scored 17 goals over the past two seasons on the power play. But Sharp is familiar with the way Chicago plays with the extra man, is as pure a shooter as there is in the league, despite his age, and he has proven chemistry with Toews, Kane, Saad, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
The downside to signing Sharp, however, is that despite filling a hole on the wing, it doesn’t really address two of Chicago’s biggest needs. The Blackhawks, who have long been reported to be trading Marcus Kruger, are going to be thinner down the middle than they have been in recent years, and while Sharp has been tried at center at times during his career, he’s a natural winger. He doesn’t fill that need, nor does he address the clear depth issues Chicago has on the blueline. As it stands, Chicago’s top pairing consists of Keith and Seabrook, followed by Connor Murphy, Michal Kempny, Gustav Forsling and Michal Rozsival. The likes of Jan Rutta, Viktor Svedberg, Erik Gustafsson and Ville Pokka also have potential to slot in on the blueline. But, overall, it makes for a rather uninspiring defense.
To some in Chicago, however, that won’t matter much. Sharp is a fan favorite, a beloved Blackhawk who helped bring the franchise back to prominence. And if he can manage to chip in anywhere close to 20 goals while skating back in his former home, there isn’t going to be a single regret for Chicago.