A couple of days ago, we revisited the trade involving Brandon Saad. While that obviously went over very well for the Chicago Blackhawks so far, there was another trade that came about as the Blackhawks were forced to get under the salary cap over the summer. After a year’s worth of speculation, the Hawks sent Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt. While Sharp, the Hawks, and their fans knew it was coming, it did little to soften the blow. Sharpie was gone, after 10 years with the team.
— Sun-Times Sports (@suntimes_sports) August 4, 2015
Last season was a wash for Sharp, with his numbers falling off considerably, but there were few who believed this was anything more than an off year. Dallas would almost certainly get the same version of Sharp that Hawks fans had become accustomed to, the Sharp Shooter. For starters, Sharp was going to slot into a top-six role in Dallas, while in Chicago he had fallen off to the bottom six in favor of Brandon Saad, and even Kris Versteeg, or Teuvo Teravainen. Was this because his numbers had dropped off, or was this why his numbers dropped off? Perhaps it was a little bit of both.
It didn’t help that Sharp had to deal with an injury and some ugly rumors that several media outlets exposed throughout the course of the season. To say they had been hurtful would be a massive understatement. For Sharp, turning the page on a new chapter in Dallas was likely a welcomed change, and one that came with a much smaller spotlight than the one he was exposed to in Chicago.
Sharp has had a bit of a slow start, but in the last few weeks, he has quickly turned it around. He is showing the Stars, and their fans, what an asset he can be to their offense, which was already quite impressive with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza leading the charge. In his last five games, he has tallied six points, with his total now reaching six goals and six assists for twelve points on the season. This is easily indicating that Sharp was nowhere near done, as some had speculated throughout his scoring drought last season.
For anyone keeping track, Sharp was clearly the biggest of the moving parts in this transaction. While you can’t really fault the Hawks for moving him, it was especially hard to see Sharp go. Not only was Sharp still an offensive weapon, he also played a solid two-way game. Sharp was collateral damage from the salary cap, and one very ugly contract for Bryan Bickell. Something that has been referred to here on The Hockey Writers as the Bickell Pickle.
In addition to the loss of Sharp, the Hawks also gave up defenseman Johns – a young defender who many believed would be the next rookie to crack the lineup, capitalizing on the success of fellow defenseman, Trevor van Riemsdyk. Johns is a big, physical defenseman, capable of delivering some massive hits. However, Johns did have a tendency to get caught out of position from time to time, often in an effort to deliver those hits. Which is perhaps, one of the reasons that he came along a bit slower than many had anticipated.
With that said, it still came as a shock when the trade was announced. Everyone saw Sharp’s departure coming, but Johns had been another story. Especially given the Blackhawks already had shallow depth on defense, which almost certainly could have proven costly in the playoffs last season, had it not been for the fitness levels and endurance of Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya. Adding insult to injury, a few weeks after this trade went down, Oduya joined Sharp and Johns in Dallas as a free-agent signing. The Blackhawks simply did not have enough cap space to keep the veteran defenseman.
Johns has yet to crack the lineup for the Stars, but general manager Jim Nill is cultivating his depth through the AHL, and his time will come. It was quite clear that Johns had caught the Dallas GM’s interest prior to the trade, and it seems unlikely that Johns won’t get a shot this season.
The Blackhawks were handcuffed, and they needed to move a big salary. Since Bickell was always going to be a hard sell, and Sharp’s age was likely to be a factor, it was almost impossible to think the Hawks wouldn’t have to part with either a top prospect, or a player like Andrew Shaw, a move that many fans would have taken much harder.
That would require a trade, and I'm pretty sure you'd have to pry Stephen Johns from Jim Nill's cold, dead hands. https://t.co/eti2b5toTJ
— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) October 20, 2015
It is quite possible that Johns was even the top draw here, and Sharp was a top-shelf sweetener for Nill. It doesn’t matter how the blueprints panned out for the trade, the Stars got two great players, without giving up players that would require an outside replacement.
Full House Beats a Pair
If this were a hand of poker, Nill started with a pair of aces and a king in Benn, Seguin and Spezza. He drew another ace on the turn in Sharp, with the river being another king in Johns. He easily won the hand with kings full of aces. Seems like this one was in the house’s favor all along, which is fitting for a team out of Texas.
That’s not to say that Garbutt and Daley have no value. Far from it, in fact.
Garbutt is a pitbull, who will chase the puck into the dirty areas of the ice, and can spark the team with his gritty play, much like Shaw. He is an agitator type, with some offensive upside, and he is also good on the penalty kill. A trait that was likely what drew GM Stan Bowman’s attention. The Hawks had gotten away from the penalty kill they once had, with players like Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik leading the charge, something they are certainly looking to return to form.
So far, Garbutt has yet to score a goal, but he has worked his way through the lineup, even earning a chance with Jonathan Toews on the first line for a bit, due to injuries. While he hasn’t set the world on fire, his style of play has kept him in the lineup on a fairly consistent basis, in spite of an abundance of talent at the forward position. He has great vision on the ice, and good speed which has allowed him to be the set-up man for a number of solid scoring opportunities, including a charging dish to Toews, that ended up in the back of the net.
Daley has a lot of offensive upside, however, the defense first style of play that the Blackhawks run with has hampered the free-wheeling style that Daley had become accustomed to with Dallas. The transition for Daley is still very much a work in progress, though he has contributed three assists, the offense has yet to click for Daley. He has recorded 24 shots on goal, which is good enough for eighth on a team loaded with offensive weapons, so it is only a matter of time before one of those pucks finds the back of the net.
For Daley, it has become a game of patience. He will have to learn to play the more defensive-minded game that coach Joel Quenneville demands first, and hopefully with that the scoring will follow.
Winning is the Name of the Game
Back in July when this trade went down, anyone could have told you who this trade was going to favor. Sharp was going to be a painful loss, and the team’s cap situation was going to lower the return that the Blackhawks were hoping to get for the star winger. After all, the other 29 teams in the league are not in the business of helping the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks continue to win, they are in the business of bringing that Cup back to their home ice. If that gave the Stars an advantage in the trade talks, you better believe they were going to use it.
The Hawks did not come away empty-handed, and this was far from the worst trade of the offseason; However, it certainly won’t go down as one of the best trades for the cap-strapped Hawks. This was a clear-cut win for the Stars, even before the ink had dried.
Remember when the Hawks had to trade guys like, Saad, Leddy, and Sharp because they signed Bryan Bickell to a huge contract?
— . (@AlexDeBrincats) October 20, 2015
Kristi is a long time hockey fan who grew up in, and around hockey rinks across the United States and Canada. A native Chicagoan, Loucks has always been an avid Blackhawks fan. Kristi also covers the Chicago Cubs and writes suspense thrillers, when not covering the Chicago Blackhawks. Follow Kristi on twitter @louckske