Could Patrick Sharp be the answer to the Rangers Stanley Cup Dreams?
Patrick Sharp is on his way out of Chicago, not because he’s a bad hockey player but due to cap constraints. The 33 year old forward leaves the Blackhawks with 239 goals and 511 points in 679 regular season games. He also notched 42 goals and 80 points in the playoffs over 117 games for the Hawks. More importantly, he leaves with 3 Stanley Cup rings and the valued experience of what it takes to win in today’s NHL.
Analytics are all the rage nowadays, and in fairness the Blackhawks are one of the top teams in that respect. Still, there are intangibles that exist in the NHL that no stat will ever be able to quantify.
One such intangible is experience. The current Rangers squad has only two players with Stanley Cup rings on their fingers. Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle won the Cup down in Tampa together in 2004. While that is still a great accomplishment, it didn’t help the Rangers 11 years later. Now, it is very likely that MSL’s Cup experience and $5.625M cap hit may be heading either to retirement or elsewhere.
The Rangers have playoff experience. As a franchise they have played 76 post season games since 2012. That’s the most in the league for that span. In comparison, the winners of the last 4 Stanley Cups Chicago and L.A. have played 71 and 64 respectively. So what’s missing?
When you look at the Rangers, there isn’t much lacking. They have elite goaltending, solid puck moving defensemen and a talented group of forwards. It truly makes you wonder, why haven’t they won the Cup yet?
In 2012, the Rangers lacked scoring and were worn out by the time they lost to the Devils in the ECF. Last year, they came out of the gate slow, but steamrolled all the way to the Final only to lose to the Kings. L.A. won it in 5, but 3 of their 4 wins were in OT. The series was closer than the number of games played. Yet, time and time again the Kings found a way to come out on top winning their 2nd Cup in 3 years.
This past year, the Rangers were hampered by significant injuries and couldn’t find that extra level of desperation to beat Tampa. Could a factor be the lack of recent Stanley Cup winning experience? Analytics gurus will laugh and mock the idea, some will say this is lazy thinking and not doing the numbers crunching to solve the problem. To them I say, if the answers were so easy to see by looking at some numbers, every game would finish in a tie and all teams would be great.
What separates winners and losers after all the analyzing is done are intangibles. Especially in hockey. Things like grit, heart, experience and rising to the occasion (aka: clutch) will never be quantified by a calculation. That’s why sports still thrive today and also why hockey is played on the ice and not in a spreadsheet.
Patrick Sharp is all the intangibles described above. When the Hawks won the Cup in 2010, he scored 11 goals and 22 points in 22 games. In 2013, he notched 10 goals and 16 points for the Hawks second Cup. This last postseason, he was solid with 5 goals and 15 points with the huge opening goal on the road in game 5 of the Final to give the Hawks a 3-2 series lead. He had an assist in the Cup clincher as well.
Sharp’s cap hit is heavy at $5.9M and will be on the books for the next two seasons. The asking price the Hawks are looking for is also steep. As per TFP, it’s a 1st rounder, a top 6 forward on an entry level contract and top prospect.
Right off the bat, the Rangers don’t have a 1st round pick. However, it is possible they could acquire one in the Cam Talbot deal and use that as leverage. As for top 6 forwards on entry level contracts, not many teams would part with that as well as a first rounder for an aging forward. Still, let’s play and see if names like Carl Hagelin (RFA) or J.T. Miller (RFA) raise some interest. When it comes to top prospects, the Rangers would be extremely unwilling to part with Pavel Buchnevich or Brady Skjei. It doesn’t mean that something else can’t be worked out.
Another thing to consider is this, the Blackhawks are asking for the world and it is highly unlikely they will get even two of those pieces. Everyone in the NHL knows the Hawks are up against the cap and HAVE TO TRADE HIM.
Should the Rangers make a play if the price is reasonable? Bottom line is this, the Rangers are lacking top 6 forwards who are right handed shots. Sharp could bring a whole new look to the lineup, especially the power play. The also don’t have his recent proven track record for winning Stanley Cups in their lineup either. 3 Cups in 6 years means he knows a thing or two about getting over the hump.
After this last recent playoff failure, I’m open to mortgaging some of the future to improve our chances of winning at least one Stanley Cup tomorrow. Here’s the deal, the Rangers have been great over the last 4 years. Ten years from now, no one will remember. What people will remember are the teams and men who have raised the Cup over their heads in triumph.
Patrick Sharp is one of those men.