TAMPA — The Blackhawks faced plenty of “dynasty” questions on Tuesday, roughly 24 hours prior to making their third Stanley Cup Final appearance in six seasons.
But for Patrick Sharp, the term isn’t in his lexicon.
“I don’t really use that word,” Sharp said during Stanley Cup Media Day. “I just know I’ve been on a good team for a long time. Going back 10 years, Duncs [Duncan Keith], Seabs [Brent Seabrook] and I got started in Chicago, and we’re kind of the last remaining ones from those dark days.”
Sharp, 33, has spent a decade in the Windy City, which predates the arrivals of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Chelsea Dagger and Cup Parades. He’s been around long enough to remember the ‘Hawks not making the playoffs — like when they won just 26 games in 2005-06 under since-forgotten coach Trent Yawney — and when the United Center was more mausoleum than madhouse.
Because of that history, Sharp is more equipped to speak about the Blackhawks’ renaissance than just about anyone. But it’s also sort of telling he’s being asked dynasties and memories now, as both he and his team face an offseason loaded with uncertainty.
Minutes prior to Sharp taking the podium on Tuesday, ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman was at a different dais, fielding far different questions — ones about the salary cap, and the uncertain future facing his team.
“It’s a challenge,” Bowman explained. “The salary cap, that’s a system we all play under and we’ve been through it before. There’s changes to be made to every team and we’re no different.
“We certainly have expectations that we want to keep this going. The main players are going to be back..”
Which begs the question — is Sharp a main player?
Next year, Toews and Kane will have cap hits of $10 million each. Brandon Saad needs a new deal this summer, and Brent Seabrook the year following. Those financial obligations have led many to speculate that Sharp, who has two years left on his deal at $5.9M per, will be traded this summer as a cap-relief move — not unlike, as Bowman alluded to, the ‘Hawks previously being forced to deal away the likes of Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien due to salary restraints.
Sharp knows this part of the game. He was on hand for the Ladd-Versteeg-Byfuglien purge five years ago and, when his name surfaced at last year’s trade deadline, he acknowledged “there’s going to be talk, discussions, rumors” about his future in Chicago. (Prior to this year’s deadline, he was linked in a move to Washington.)
As such, it was not surprising on Tuesday to hear Sharp speak about his entire career with the ‘Hawks — not just the recent championships, that have led to dynasty discussions.
“It became just such a fun ride to be a part of,” he explained. “I don’t look at the past six years and say we’ve been to three Cup Finals — I look at the whole ride in general, and consider myself very lucky to be a part of it.”