Washington Capitals And Patrick Sharp: A Match In Heaven

Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals are looking to add a top six forward to the mix during this off-season. Since the free agent market appears to barren of top six forwards (except for Justin Williams), the Washington Capitals will most likely have to get a top six forward via a trade. One player who the Washington Capitals could trade for (in fact they already TRIED to trade for him in February) is Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp

Patrick Sharp has been an important member of the Chicago Blackhawks and each of their three Stanley Cups. So why are they looking to trade him? It’s quite simple. Sharp has a $5,900,000 cap hit through the 2016-2017 season. The Chicago Blackhawks are going to have to deal with their top three players having a combined cap hit of over $25,000,000. Sharp can be replaced by Brandon Saad (who is a restricted free agent) and/or Teuvo Teravainen. Obviously, Sharp is expendable to Chicago.

That isn’t to say that Sharp wouldn’t be productive for the Washington Capitals. I think he could be. The Washington Capitals need more killer instinct. They need to have more of those guys who are going to step up their game in the playoffs and lead by example just like Alex Ovechkin did in game seven against the New York Rangers. Patrick Sharp is unquestionably a guy who can do that. In 117 playoff games with Chicago, Sharp has 80 points (42 goals and 38 assists). 

Even in an “off year” this season, Sharp still had 43 points. However, let’s take a deeper look at his off year this season.

  • His 27 points at five on five during the regular season were his lowest in a full-season since 2008-2009.
  • His eight goals at five on five during the regular season were a career low in a full season.
  • He averaged his lowest time on ice per game (16:49) since 2005-2006.
  • His plus/minus rating of -8 was his lowest since 2006-2007.

These are just a few things that the Washington Capitals must consider if they are interested in trading for him. They also must remember that he will be turning 34 in December and players usually start declining right around age 33. However, there is another reason that easily explains his off year: new teammates and new line combinations.

Traditionally, Patrick Sharp has been known as a “finisher”. He has always been very good at finding the weak point of his opponent’s coverage and sneaking into it to get scoring chances. However, according to Jen Lute Costella (@RegressedPDO), Sharp’s diminished stats and his change in roles (along with injuries) could have a direct correlation.

This season has been a different story. Sharp’s responsibilities on his many line combinations were changed from finisher duties to workhorse duties. Sharp has been tasked with finding a way to get the puck out of the defensive zone and into the offensive zone while his new linemates have learned the ropes of the Hawks’ system. Those linemates, mostly Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen, both joined the team as full-time additions late in the season. Both obviously are skilled, particularly the unbelievably crafty Teravainen, but it takes time to find a rhythm together.

When people think of Sharp this season, they most often will picture him trying to carry the puck into the zone or chipping it behind the defense and then getting a shot from outside of the faceoff dot. Working off of the carry never has been the most effective part of Sharp’s game, so it is easy to see why his timing has not found its way back yet.- Chicago Tribune

Basically, Sharp has had his role completely changed. He is usually great at finishing. Because of the new guys on the Blackhawks, he was required to be a set up guy, a role that is not ideal for a player like Sharp. I would be concerned about Sharp if his shot generation rates were slipping, but they haven’t. All stats courtesy of Hockey Analysis.

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Another reason the Washington Capitals should trade for Patrick Sharp is his willingness to do whatever it takes to make his team better. He fought back from an injury this season and accepted a huge change in his role in the Blackhawks offense. That’s precisely the kind of guy that the Washington Capitals should be targeting. Here’s why. Let’s suppose Tom Wilson comes into training camp motivated and earns that first line right wing spot. Andre Burakovsky would likely be the second line right wing at that point. Sharp would most likely accept a third line role if needed, which would jump start the third line’s rather stagnant offense in 2014-2015.

I see Patrick Sharp as a first line left wing candidate. I wouldn’t get caught up over Alex Ovechkin playing on the right wing, I honestly don’t care. He’s proven he can dominate in either spot. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to win, just like Sharp. However, I think what would be best for the Washington Capitals is if Sharp is on the second line.

Let me explain. The first line would be awesome if it’s Ovechkin, Backstrom and Burakovsky. However, if it was Sharp, Backstrom and Ovechkin, that leaves the second line without a proven finisher, something that it lacked all of last season. The Washington Capitals second line could definitely use a guy like Sharp. They already have Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who are quite good in setting up plays and getting pucks in. Sharp could be the missing piece to the second line. There’s the issue of having two left wings, but we’re past the days of Adam Oates, so we know that’s not that big of a deal.

Sharp would be great for the Washington Capitals because he’d give that them that potential missing piece that they lacked in 2014-2015. The Capitals would be a great fit for Sharp because their system and roster would likely allow Sharp to return to the “finisher” role that he was brutally efficient in.

Let’s discuss the issue of cost. It’s going to take quite a bit for the Washington Capitals to pry Sharp from Chicago. Even though Sharp basically *has* to be moved for salary cap reasons, Stan Bowman is not an idiot. He knows what he has in Sharp. He knows Sharp still has a ton of value. Any NHL player swap can be scratched because the Hawks probably don’t want to take anything more than an entry level contract or a really cheap contract in return. They would most likely take prospects. Connor Carrick would be a nice piece to add, especially since his position with the Washington Capitals is up in the air thanks to defensive depth.

It’s going to take more than Carrick though. I’m thinking it would take Carrick and a second round pick. The Caps don’t have one in 2015, but they could offer their 2016 second round pick and Carrick. It might even take a first rounder to get Sharp. I’d be willing to give up a 2016 first rounder, but I think the Washington Capitals would stop at their 2015 first rounder. If the first rounder is involved, I don’t see Carrick being a part of the deal.

I hope that the Washington Capitals and Blackhawks can work something out, because it’s rare that I see a potential trade that would benefit both teams AND the players. This is one of those trades.