The Chicago Blackhawks' core lost one member Friday.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews were holdovers from the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup championship to their latest one -- the only seven players who were a part of all three of Chicago's recent Cup teams.
Now there will be only six to pursue another title for the Blackhawks after the team traded Sharp to the Dallas Stars. The trade was made to free salary-cap space and pay for the Blackhawks’ future core. The move certainly wasn't unexpected, but what shouldn’t be lost is what the 33-year-old Sharp meant to the Blackhawks and their resurgence.
Sharp was one of the remaining ties to the dreary period in franchise history. He, Keith and Seabrook experienced first-hand what it was like to play before depressingly small crowds and lose more often than they won. Those three have particularly appreciated being on the other end of that scale in recent years.
Sharp was traded to the Blackhawks on Dec. 5, 2005, with Eric Meloche from the Philadelphia Flyers for Matt Ellison and the Blackhawks’ third-round pick in the 2006 draft. Sharp had 10 goals and 66 NHL games to his name when he arrived in Chicago.
The Blackhawks gave Sharp a larger role and more ice time, and Sharp seized those opportunities. He scored nine goals over the final 50 games of the 2005-06 season and recorded 20 goals for the first time in his career the following season. He has done that six more times since.
As the Blackhawks began adding and subtracting pieces, Sharp became a permanent fixture. He was a forward who could score, skate, win puck battles and be a leader. As Kane, Toews and Hossa arrived in the years that followed, the Blackhawks had four high-end forwards and became a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Sharp played in different spots in the Blackhawks' top six over the years, but his production often stayed the same. He scored 25 goals during the 2009-10 regular season and scored 11 more during their Stanley Cup run that season. Sharp notched 10 goals in the team's 2013 run to the Cup. His production wasn’t quite on that level during the 2015 postseason, but he still scored five times, with goals in three of the four series. He scored in all but one of the Blackhawks’ 20 playoff series during his career. It was that consistency the Blackhawks valued the most.
Sharp has also placed himself among the franchise’s all-time leaders. He’s 11th in Blackhawks history with 239 regular-season goals and 15th with 511 points. He’s also sixth with 42 playoff goals and tied for seventh with 80 points.
But of all the numbers associated with Sharp, three will stand above the rest. Whatever happens in the future for the Blackhawks, those three Stanley Cups and Sharp’s role in them will be forever remembered.