Yesterday, absolutely no one’s world was rocked by the completely expected announcement that Stan Bowman, GM for the Chicago Blackhawks, had re-signed Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for 8 years at $84 million.
The ramifications, however, are beginning to make their way though the heads of players, GMs, and media alike. What could this mean for the Habs, you ask? Well, my friend, Patrick Sharp is still rumored to be on the trading block.
While it’s just as likely that Sharp stays with the Blackhawks as goes to the Panthers due to Dale Tallon‘s affinity for former Blackhawks and there’s more than a decent chance the Leafs offer every last bit of money they have, the Canadiens could make the most attractive offer for the possibly-former Blackhawk.
Let’s look at why the Canadiens would be smart to consider trading for Sharp.
The Canadiens are fast team who value skill over hits, like the Blackhawks. With regards to that aspect, Sharp would fit right in; most of his time in the NHL has been spent on that kind of system. He’s a good skater with strong puck possession numbers, who, aside from the last two months of the 2013-14 season, finds the back of the net consistently. If he replaced Galchenyuk on the second line, it would change that line’s style of play pretty drastically, but there’s another, more interesting option available.
As Galchenyuk was drafted at center, but currently plays at left wing, I’m insanely curious to see if they click and what they could do together. He’s known for a more physical style of play, but Sharp doesn’t shy away from delivering hits. He simply doesn’t go out of his way to do so. Pairing them could make the second line a powerhouse and would certainly aid Galchenyuk in continuing to develop as a player. It would doubtlessly be an interesting move after Briere’s departure as the on-and-off 4C.
Even if Montreal doesn’t take advantage of Galchenyuk’s natural position (I would suggest he start as 3C and move his way up), Sharp could use a reliable center such as Plekanec. He’s been shifted around for years as the Blackhawks lack depth at center, and while he appears comfortable playing with anyone, stability is nothing to sneer at.
I don’t see replacing Pacioretty with Sharp on the first line as the Pacioretty-Desharnais combination is a winning one. He could certainly step up when needed, as Pacioretty’s style of play reminds me a lot of Sharp. They both rely on skill, skating, and most of all, patience. If, for some reason, Pacioretty were out and Sharp took his place, I think the top line would continue to work much the way it does already, keeping an elite style combination in production.
Location, location, location
A move to Montreal could be a fresh start for Sharp, who might be getting stale on a team he’s been playing with and helping lead for eight years. As a bonus, a move to the Canadiens would bring him back to Canada, relatively close to where he grew up in Ontario.
Age before beauty
With Gorges and Briere gone, two older, more experienced players that those younger in the room could look to for guidance on and off the ice, Sharp might be just what the Habs need in the room. Sharp is a veteran in the NHL and has worn the A in Chicago since the 2008-09 season. He’s experienced at dealing with rookies, by all accounts is generally easygoing besides the occasional prank and is married with kids, making him practically dead in some people’s eyes. Basically, he’d bring a positive, stable presence to the room for at least three years. After losing Gorges the room is bound to be looking for an experienced player to fill that hole.
Moolah, cash, whatever you call it – it’s nice to have.
Right now, Sharp is pulling in $6 million a year with a modified no-trade clause. As a married person, with two children and possibly more in his future, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Sharp would take less money than he’s getting for a guaranteed no-trade clause. While the Canadiens have money to spend it’s better for the organization to get a deal on a player than to throw bags of money at him until he agrees to the one that feels the heaviest.
Sharp is 32, and while he’s coming off his highest-ever season in points, with 78 over 82 games played, he essentially disappeared during the last two months of the season. While many have hinted that was due to off-ice troubles, it does remind us that forwards tend to hit their production peaks between 29 and 32, while for defenders it comes a little later. With that in mind it would be prudent to offer Sharp somewhere around $5 million a year.
A relatively good comparison to keep in mind might be Mike Richards, who pulls in about $5.75 million a year, and whose similarity scores on hockey-reference.com are the closest, both regarding their entire careers and over the past 10 years. Sharp is a higher goal-scorer than Richards, often coming in at just the right time to finish things off.
Impact-wise, I’d consider Sharp better comparable to Iginla: when he’s on the ice, the tide turns in his favor. He’s not selfish with the puck, and earned more points from assists than from goals in four out of the last five years, though the numbers usually float around the same point. He’s good for the players around him, working better as a teammate than a single star.
At what cost to the organization Sharp might come, I don’t know. The Blackhawks are looking for future picks, low-cost skill and may not ultimately decide to move Sharp, even if it solves their cap problems. But I do know one thing for sure: Sharp would be a smart pick-up for the Canadiens, and is at least worth exploring.