Sport In Blackhawks Runion, It's Right Back to Business for Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad

17:57  12 october  2017
17:57  12 october  2017 Source:   si.com

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Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad are back with the Blackhawks , ready to help bring another Stanley Cup to Chicago. In Blackhawks Reunion , It ' s Right Back to Business for Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad .

That was among the first things Patrick Sharp noticed when he came back . For the Blackhawks , it ’ s just business as usual. “I wouldn’t say it ’ s an ethos,” Bowman says. Two years ago, the Blackhawks encountered this fiscal dilemma with Brandon Saad and responded by shipping his

  In Blackhawks Runion, It's Right Back to Business for Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad © Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

CHICAGO — The locker room changed. That was among the first things Patrick Sharp noticed when he came back. The overhaul at United Center had begun three days after his last game in a decade-long tenure with the Blackhawks, an unforgettable mid-June night that drenched the carpet in champagne and dislodged more than a few ceiling tiles in celebration of the 2015 Stanley Cup champions. The new layout featured some structural overlap with the old design, but not much. The player lounge was expanded and nicer couches imported, a full kitchen added and a new entrance constructed. Early on, Sharp tried turning down what he remembered as a hallway. Instead, he ran into a wall.

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Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad are back with the Blackhawks , ready to help bring another Stanley Cup to Chicago. Latest News.

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He’s sitting inside the renovated space now, three days before the season-opener and the first show on his reunion tour. It wasn’t the differences that spurred Sharp’s return to Chicago—though the swankier digs are nice—but familiarity. Same head coach, same front office, lots of similar teammates...look, here comes one. “That little punk walking over,” Sharp says, nodding at Patrick Kane, “was a big reason. A lot of my good friends are here. A lot of my best memories in hockey were here. It was great to get back.”

As the open interview period wound down and unrestricted free agency loomed last summer, Sharp trimmed his list of suitors from five teams to three. Chicago hadn’t expressed interest yet, but that interest existed at all was a pleasant development; still recovering from hip surgery in March after notching 28 goals and 73 points in 124 games over two season with the Stars, the 35-year-old winger was facing, in his words, “a lot of uncertainty about the future of my career, my health, where I was going to play, if I was going to play.” Then Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman called his agent, wondering whether it was too late to enter the sweepstakes. The rest of the world stopped turning. “As soon as they were involved,” says Sharp, who originally left in a July 2015 trade with Dallas, “that was my clear-cut number one choice.” On July 1, he signed a one-year contract worth $800,000 plus performance bonuses, far less than anyone else was offering but all that the Blackhawks could afford.

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In Blackhawks Reunion , It ' s Right Back to Business for Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad . Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad are back with the Blackhawks , ready to help bring another Stanley Cup to Chicago.

Reunited : Patrick Sharp is officially back with the Blackhawks . Brandon Saad was reacquired last week from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brian Campbell (offseason) and Johnny Oduya (trade deadline) were back last season.

Like dyeing the Chicago River green each St. Patrick’s Day, it has become an annual local tradition for former players to come gusting back into the Windy City. Defenseman Brian Campbell spent last season on a cheap one-year deal and rode into retirement on the L train, while fellow blueliner Johnny Oduya arrived (again) around the trade deadline. There was winger Kris Versteeg, a member of the 2010 Cup team like Campbell who zigzagged through three other NHL cities before returning in Nov. 2013. And Andrew Ladd, who played six seasons with the Thrashers/Jets organization until Chicago reacquired him for the stretch run in ‘15-16.

Under everyday circumstances, rekindling relationships with so many exes would be a likely recipe for disaster. For the Blackhawks, it’s just business as usual. “I wouldn’t say it’s an ethos,” Bowman says. “There’s this impression that we always want to bring guys back. If anything, we’ve had to get rid of some players we never wanted to get rid of, other than we just couldn’t afford them.”

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On July 10, 2015 Patrick Sharp was another one of the Blackhawks ’ salary-cap casualties. Brandon Saad was reacquired last week from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brian Campbell (offseason) and Johnny Oduya (trade deadline) were back last season.

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Two years ago, the Blackhawks encountered this fiscal dilemma with Brandon Saad and responded by shipping his restricted free agent rights to Columbus. Presciently enough, when Bowman broke the news to Saad, he floated the idea of a possible reunion down the road. “More so that it’s a small league and you never know what the future holds,” Saad says, “but you keep those relationships for ever. It just so happened to be as quick as two years.” On June 23, a week before Sharp committed to coming back, Saad, fresh off back-to-back 53-point seasons with the Blue Jackets, was flipped for dynamic Russian winger Artemi Panarin. “Who would’ve thought?” Saad’s agent told him that morning.

“Yeah,” he replied, “it’s unbelievable.”

In the two years since Saad and Sharp departed as cap casualties following the ‘15 Cup run, the Blackhawks have strung together 109- and 103-point regular seasons, respectively, but endured consecutive first-round playoff exits. According to Bowman, they also struggled to find “that right person to complement Jonathan [Toews] in particular,” a role Saad and Sharp each previously occupied. As cost-effective, available and known commodities, their roads retraced to Chicago along parallel tracks.

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The reunion with Sharp isn’t particularly surprising, given the Blackhawks ’ penchant for bringing back free agents on cheap contracts. They reacquired winger Brandon Saad earlier this month in exchange for Artemi Panarin, and players like Kris Versteeg, Nikolai Khabibulin

Business . City Hall. Sneed. So as far as fourth lines go, it ’ s a dream. But for Patrick Sharp , Ryan Hartman and Brandon Saad , this season has been closer to a nightmare.

“Patrick’s older, and the only issue typically with older players is they slow down,” Bowman says. “He’s an anomaly that way. He looks as fast as he did five years ago. I remember from the years we had him, he was always first or second in fitness testing. I was never that worried about his rehab or his ability to improve his hip. I knew he was going to come back and, sure enough, he was one of the best tested guys.

“Saad is the perfect zero-maintenance player. Not real flashy, just super effective, super reliable. I felt that was an element that could help us. We traded a great player in Panarin for him. But Panarin was different. He was more flash-and-dash, high style. And Brandon is not that. But he’s Mr. Businesslike, Mr. Workmanlike Attitude. I think something like that will help us in those playoff environments where we didn’t execute the way we should have.”

So far, so good. Saad struck a hat trick in the opener at United Center, a 10-1 pounding of two-time defending Cup-champion Pittsburgh, and feasted around the net with two more goals over the next three games; Sharp, meanwhile, has three points in four games. “I think both of them look even better, to be honest with you,” Kane says. “Saader’s probably at that age where he’s going to enter the prime of his career and be a big contributor. Sharpie’s probably at a point in his career where he’s getting older but he doesn’t really look like it.”

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The captain didn't say how he plans to do that, but being reunited with Brandon Saad ought to help immensely. That should free up Patrick Kane Sharp came back on a sweetheart deal that will pay him just 0,000 in base salary, and he' s willing to do whatever it takes to hoist a fourth Stanley Cup.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and Saad had earlier both indicated their mutual I have a lot of confidence in that, in terms of bringing a player like Brandon back and he’ s going to be a big It was assumed that veteran players like Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell would be casualties of the

Aside from the redesigned locker room—and the Woolly Willy beard that Saad rocked during the ‘15 playoffs but has since shaved—Chicago’s latest batch of prodigal players swear little else has changed. “It’s pretty familiar early on,” Saad says. “The comfort level’s great.” Same captain (Toews), same goalie (Corey Crawford), mostly the same workhorse defensemen (Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, minus Niklas Hjalmarsson). Same security guards, same parking attendants, same little punks strutting around.

Speaking of which...as one of the old guard that pre-dated Kane and Toews, back when home games weren’t broadcast on local TV and veterans passed out free ticket vouchers on street corners, Sharp was renowned for pranking the Blackhawks’ rising generation of superstars. And so, not long after reporting to training camp this season, he approached Bowman with an observation. As Bowman recalls, “He said, jokingly, ‘I can’t believe how nobody gives these guys s--- anymore. They just walk on water. I’m going to bring them down a few pegs.’”

Just like it used to be.

This article was originally published on SI.com

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