Sharp re­turns to Black­hawks, agrees to one-year deal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Patrick Sharp fig­ured he would re­turn to Chicago. He just wasn’t sure he would play for the Black­hawks again. Sharp, a high-scor­ing winger who helped them win three Stan­ley Cup championships be­fore get­ting traded, will once again suit up for Chicago next sea­son. The 35-year-old vet­eran agreed Satur­day to a one-year con­tract that guar­an­tees $800,000. He could earn an ad­di­tional $200,000 in in­cen­tives.

“I have a spe­cial place in my heart, my fam­ily does as well, for the city,” he said. “We did have plans on re­turn­ing maybe not as a hockey player. But we def­i­nitely do want to live in that city at some point.” Sharp said he could have signed for more money else­where. But the lure of re­turn­ing to the team where he en­joyed his great­est suc­cess was too strong. Sharp spent 10 sea­sons with the Black­hawks from 2005 to 2015 and had 511 points, in­clud­ing 239 goals. He scored more than 30 goals four times in that span and helped trans­form Chicago into one of the most suc­cess­ful fran­chises along with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Sharp got dealt to Dal­las in a salary cap move af­ter the Black­hawks beat Tampa Bay for the cham­pi­onship in 2015. He has 277 goals and 322 as­sists in 14 years with Philadel­phia, Chicago and the Stars. But he had sea­son-end­ing hip surgery in March af­ter miss­ing most of De­cem­ber be­cause of a con­cus­sion and fin­ished with just eight goals and 10 as­sists. Sharp de­scribed the hip prob­lem as a nag­ging is­sue. But he ex­pects to be “100 per­cent ready to go” for train­ing camp. “The re­cov­ery from the in­jury is not an is­sue at all,” gen­eral man­ager Stan Bow­man said.

“We’re ex­cited ob­vi­ously for get­ting him back on the ice with the group here.”

The Black­hawks won the Cen­tral Divi­sion last sea­son with a 50-23-9 record, fin­ish­ing with the most points in the Western Con­fer­ence. But they got swept by Nashville in the open­ing se­ries, man­ag­ing just three goals in 13 pe­ri­ods. Bow­man promised big changes and he has been busy.

The Black­hawks re-ac­quired Bran­don Saad - a two-time cham­pion in Chicago and parted with Nik­las Hjal­mars­son and Artemi Pa­narin in a pair of sur­pris­ing trades that added youth and con­tract sta­bil­ity. They shook up their coach­ing staff, fir­ing as­sis­tant Mike Kitchen and adding for­mer NHL de­fense­man Ulf Sa­muels­son and Don Granato to Joel Quen­neville’s staff.

Chicago also got hit with a huge loss in late June. Mar­ian Hossa stunned the NHL by an­nounc­ing he plans to sit out next sea­son be­cause of se­vere side ef­fects from med­i­ca­tion to treat a pro­gres­sive skin dis­or­der, and it’s not clear if he will play again.

Even so, Sharp sees no rea­son why the Black­hawks can’t make another cham­pi­onship run.

“I know the heart and char­ac­ter of those guys in the locker room - most of them,” he said. There are some new faces, of course. But there’s also some added com­fort. Af­ter all, he’s back in fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings, back with a fran­chise that he helped be­come one of the league’s best. “I know I am com­ing back to a city that I played in for 10 years and a group of guys that I’m re­ally good friends with,” he said. “But at the same time, it is a tran­si­tion. I’m switch­ing teams. But I ex­pect it to be a lot eas­ier with that com­fort level.”

Be­sides bring­ing back Sharp, the Black­hawks agreed to one-year deals with for­wards Tommy Win­gels and Lance Bouma, and two-year con­tracts with goalie Jean-Fran­cois Berube and de­fense­man Jordan Oesterle.

A sub­ur­ban Chicago na­tive, Win­gels had seven goals and five as­sists for the San Jose Sharks and Ot­tawa Se­na­tors last sea­son. Born in Evanston, he re­called the Black­hawks draw­ing small crowds and re­fus­ing to tele­vise home games a gen­er­a­tion ago.

“I re­mem­ber want­ing to go to the Black­hawks games and want­ing to watch the Black­hawks games, but un­for­tu­nately a lot of them were blacked out grow­ing up,” he said. “I think when the or­ga­ni­za­tion drafted Kaner and Toews and what they’ve done for hockey in the city of Chicago - I hope it’s never for­got­ten that these guys have re­ally put Chicago hockey back on the map. And then it’s in­cred­i­ble that you can’t take a cou­ple steps now in Chicago with­out some­one wear­ing Black­hawks gear.”

Bouma had 27 goals and 40 as­sists in six sea­sons with Cal­gary. Berube posted a 3-2-2 record with a 3.42 goals-against av­er­age and .889 save per­cent­age in 14 ap­pear­ances with the New York Is­lan­ders. Oesterle played in 25 games over three sea­sons for Ed­mon­ton.

“I def­i­nitely like where we’re headed,” Bow­man said. “I’m ex­cited to get things go­ing in the fall, and ev­ery­one can see what the new look is.” — AP

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