Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp: Analyzing Risk Versus Reward
By Juliana Nikac
The Chicago Blackhawks signed Patrick Sharp on July 1, and fans are split about what the 35-year-old will bring to the team this upcoming season
In the whirl of free agency on July 1, the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t sign any big names to any big deals. They did, however, bring back a popular man to join the crew again. The team signed Patrick Sharp to a one year, $800,00 contract. The deal includes $200,000 in bonuses, which Sharp will receive when he plays 10 games. He also has a full no-trade clause so he can’t be moved at all during the season.
The deal is extremely affordable for the Blackhawks, so what’s all the fuss about? Some fans think Sharp isn’t the same player anymore due to injuries and old age. Others believe he’s a low risk, high reward guy who scored 55 points in the 2015-2016 season.
Let’s analyze what the risks are, what the rewards can be, and if it was worth bringing the Sharp Shooter back.
As noted, Sharp is 35 years old. He’s going to turn 36 in the middle of the season. On a team that’s trying to enter a youth movement, signing older players doesn’t make any sense. Bringing Sharp back fills a spot a younger guy could easily take: a younger guy that may be faster and not coming off an injury-filled season. He only scored 18 points in 48 games last year. He’s also coming off hip surgery.
Truthfully, the hip surgery shouldn’t scare anyone. Jamie Benn had double hip surgery in the offseason in 2015, then proceeded to score a career-high 89 points that season. Benn is also six years younger than Sharp. In an article written by reporter Chris Hine, general manager Stan Bowman stated he’s not concerned about Sharp’s surgery. He’s been rehabilitating and even began skating recently.
Still, last season was the first season Sharp had major injury troubles. He said the hip had been bothering him for a while, but he kept playing through it because it wasn’t major. He’ll be healthy come Opening Night, and can still contribute in many fashions. We all know the way Patrick Sharp can play and the chemistry he has with the team. The deal is cheap, and you can put him anywhere in the lineup. Bringing Sharp back is completely low risk.
It’s always difficult to determine how a player is going to fit on a team. Despite the fact that Sharp is a former Blackhawk, the roster has changed dramatically since his departure in the summer of 2015. He had chemistry with Jonathan Toews, but it seems like the first line is set to be Brandon Saad and Richard Panik on the captain’s wings. But I don’t think Coach Joel Quenneville will want to put him on the fourth line, either.
It makes the most sense to put Sharp on the third line to limit his minutes and try to avoid injury. However, it seems that the obvious place to put him in on the wing of Artem Anisimov. No, he can’t fill the void of Artemi Panarin, but Sharp’s played with Patrick Kane in the past and they worked together. He’ll have the utmost offensive opportunities on that line. Sharp can also be an option on the penalty kill and, if necessary, the power play.
I can’t predict that Sharp is going to exceed everyone’s expectations on the ice next season. We don’t know that he’ll score all those points like he did on the Stars two seasons ago. A good bet to make is that he won’t lead the team in points like he did in 2014. Truthfully, we don’t know exactly how he’s going to play. We can only base things off of past performance, which doesn’t determine everything.
Bringing Patrick Sharp back could turn out to be high reward. As of now, our best bet is that his reward is more in the middle range. Sharp can score and he can be a great two-way forward, but he hasn’t been on the Blackhawks in two seasons.
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We don’t know if it’s all going to work out the way Bowman might want it to. But as fans, we can try and be optimistic with the plans even if we don’t agree with how it’s all working out.