Editor’s note: Wrong Side of the Red Line posts an in-depth feature each week (typically on Mondays, this week on a Tuesday) for Patreon supporters. Interested in subscribing? Follow this link, or click the “subscribe here” on the menu above. Those who have already subscribed can login and continue reading.
Patrick Sharp is in a weird position this offseason.
He’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, is currently recovering from season-ending hip surgery, and for the first time in his career there are legitimate questions about his future in the NHL.
“This is a situation that I’ve never been in,” Sharp said. “What lies ahead? I don’t know. I need to do what I can to best get my body and my mind in shape.”
It’s not going to be an easy task, especially after a difficult season for Sharp.
He only played 48 games and missed extended time, twice, due to a concussion. He played most of the season with a hip injury, which voided any chance to trade him before the deadline, and ultimately had season-ending hip surgery in late March.
At the same time Sharp’s father, Ian, was battling leukemia. The disease worsened this year and he was hospitalized before getting extra treatments and ultimately returning home to Thunder Bay, Ontario.
And for all of his hardships Sharp was the Dallas nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, given each season to a player who displays the attributes of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. (Earlier this week Craig Anderson, Derek Ryan, and Andrew Cogliano were announced as the finalists for the Masterton.)
Sharp has always been somewhat guarded with the media, something you can probably credit to his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, and has maintained he’s not getting caught up in this past season or what lies ahead.
He says he wants to focus on his recovery, and he’s confident that he’ll be ready for training camp — wherever that may be.
But hip surgery is a tricky issue to handle and Sharp hitting 100 percent probably isn’t a reality within six months of surgery.
Sure, he’ll be able to skate and will likely get an opportunity somewhere for training — perhaps even in Dallas — but Sharp likely won’t be at full strength until at least mid-season.
Jason Dickinson had the surgery last offseason and didn’t find his best stride until mid March. If a 21-year-old takes that long to heal, it could be an even more difficult recovery for Sharp, who turns 36 in December.
“You don’t feel 100 percent until at least a year, maybe more,” Ales Hemsky, who has had a similar procedure said. “It’s not easy to come back from that. You work hard and you want to feel a certain way, and your body just won’t allow it.”
That’ll certainly weigh on Sharp’s mind this summer, while it’s also something the Stars have to consider when potentially offering him a contract. Sharp is well past the days of being a $5.9 million per year player, he’ll have to take a large pay cut, and the Stars have to figure out if a recovering Sharp fits in Ken Hitchcock’s season.
There are intangibles that suggest the Stars should re-sign the veteran this summer.
This past season he turned into a mentor and somewhat of a father figure in the locker room for several of the younger players. Brett Ritchie would often pick his brain on all aspects of the game and Devin Shore gives Sharp a ton of credit for helping him succeed in during his rookie season.
“He was a huge help to me,” Shore said. “You can learn so much from a guy like that. Playing with him is one thing, but you get so much more from being in the locker room with him every day. You learn so much about being a pro and how to handle yourself in all sorts of situations. A guy like that can be really helpful to any young player.”
And that’s why it becomes decision time for the Stars and Sharp.
Will his hip actually be ready in time for training camp? And will it hold up?
And is there a reasonable contract that both sides can agree for a player that could be a key leader in the Stars locker room?