Making a deal
Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com
Thunder Bay native and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp
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Patrick Sharp is looking to make a deal.
It appears the Chicago Blackhawks are willing to accommodate their versatile star forward, who is coming off a career-best 71-point season, despite missing eight games with an injured knee.
The 29-year-old, scheduled to be paid $3.9 million in 2010-11, the last year of his contract, isn’t making too much of a big deal about his quest for a new deal, which experts say should vault him to the $5-million a year range, putting him on par with the likes of teammate Marian Hossa.
In the offseason, the Hawks dealt away forward Troy Brouwer and defenceman Brian Campbell, freeing up millions in salary cap space, moves many think were aimed at getting the 29-year-old Sharp’s name on a long-term deal.
Sharp said recently that it’s tough to see guys like Brouwer and Campbell go, but it’s the business side of the game, something the Hawks became all too familiar with after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, only to see several key cogs sent packing.
The Thunder Bay native said he’s not thinking too much about his own situation this offseason, as he rehabs his injured knee.
“There’s nothing really new to report,” he said. “I like Chicago, I want to stay there. I’m pretty sure they’d like to keep me as well. We’ll see how things play out.”
He does have some thoughts on what he can bring to the Hawks, after a campaign that saw him make his all-star game debut, a contest in which he was awarded the game’s MVP after scoring once and adding a pair of assists in a losing cause.
“I think I can continue to get better. I’ve done that year after year as a pro hockey players.
“I don’t feel I want to take a step back anytime soon. So I’m doing everything I can to get better and we’ll see what happens this year,” said Sharp, who’s scored 20 or more goals in five straight seasons, including a pair of 30-goal efforts.
As happy as he was with his performance in the regular season, hockey’s a team game and the fact the Hawks were ousted in seven games (after losing the first three) by the eventual Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“It’s frustrating losing in the first round, but at the same time it gives us an opportunity to heal up, have a long summer and get prepared,” said Sharp, who has 160 goals and 316 points in 493 games over eight seasons. “I’ve talked to our captain, I’ve talked to a number of teammates and we’re fired up. We’re excited to get back to Chicago and start working and bring back another Cup.”
But with the Canucks still strong and Los Angeles bulking up, adding the likes of Kenora’s Mike Richards in a blockbuster deal with Philadelphia, just getting out of the first round could be a task in itself, Sharp acknowledged.
“It’s difficult. If you looked at the standings in the Western Conference all season long there were three or four points separating teams from third to ninth, so it’s going to be tough to get into the playoffs every year,” said Sharp, after the Hawks earned the eighth and final berth last season.
“But we’ve learned once you get into the playoffs anything can happen.”
He thinks the team has the tools to do it, even though they weren’t heavy players in the free agent frenzy that gripped the hockey world starting on July 1.
Chicago added tough guys Jamal Mayers, Dan Carcillo and Sean O’Donnell, and aging, but still productive, forward Andrew Brunette.
That’s good enough for Sharp.
“I think we didn’t necessarily sign the marquee big names, but we signed players that are going to help our team. They’re going to fill roles and I think we’ve got a strong core of players in Chicago that are going to get better year after year and the players that we added are going to give us some grit and toughness.”
The Hawks open the season on Oct. 7 against Dallas.