Regardless of how you felt about the outcome of Friday’s blockbuster trades involving the Chicago Blackhawks, I think we can all agree that general manager Stan Bowman showed he was not afraid to make an unpopular move if he feels that it will help his team in the long run.
It was the type of shrewd move that GMs have to make if they’re going to preserve whatever is left of this current run of annual contention for the Hawks. Time will tell if Bowman’s move was the right one, but at a minimum I can appreciate the effort.
And then I woke up to this tweet on Sunday morning from The Athletic and NHL.com reporter Brian Hedger:
RLT ... heard no less than three times at the draft that #Blackhawks are looking to bring Sharp back on a cheap Campbell-like 1-year deal.— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) June 25, 2017
We’ve seen this movie before.
The Hawks brought back Kris Versteeg in 2013. They re-acquired Andrew Ladd in 2016 and used him in a role which he never handled during his first run with the team. They brought back Johnny Oduya this spring, but he never found his old form even if his beard was still magnificent.
Few teams seem as prone to these bouts of nostalgia as the Hawks, and none of them have worked.
Quick note: I’d exempt the Brandon Saad trade re-acquisition here, as Saad is a 24-year-old rising star who is very much in his prime. None of the aforementioned players were.
I, like many of you, loved Patrick Sharp during his tenure in Chicago. For a few years, he was the only player in town worth watching before Toews and Kane showed up. He was an amazing player. But please notice that this paragraph utilizes the past tense.
Sharp will turn 36 in December and is coming off a season that saw him limited to 48 games because of injuries. Optimists will say he had a 55-point season in 2015-16, but he spent much of that season on the ice with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Sharp won’t be getting top-line minutes in Chicago. He was useful as a third-liner with Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen during the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and I imagine he’d be targeted for the bottom six if he did sign in Chicago.
Now, I can see a scenario where Sharp signs a cheap deal worth $1 million, like Brian Campbell, and fills in as a serviceable bottom six forward for the Hawks. The minimum he could sign for is $650,000, if the Hawks wanted to give him an incentive-laden contract. But there’s one problem with that, in my eyes.
Re-signing Sharp impedes the progress of Blackhawks’ prospects.
The Hawks have players under contract right now, all with cap hits under $1 million, who could fill out the bottom six. Ryan Hartman probably won’t be in the top six, but he’s coming off a 19-goal rookie season. John Hayden did enough in his 12 games at the end of the season to warrant another look. Vinnie Hinostroza showed the type of speed that could make him a nightmare on the forecheck, if he can get a handle on the other parts of his game. Restricted free agents Tomas Jurco and Dennis Rasmussen could also factor in here. Don’t count out 2016 training camp breakout Alexandre Fortin, either.
Eventually, the Hawks need to stop looking to the past and start seeing if their younger talent can contribute in the bottom half of their lineup. Sharp was a great part of this team’s three Cup championships. But it’s best to leave that chapter of Blackhawks’ history closed.