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Blackhawks agree to 5-year contract extension with forward Patrick Sharp

Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp smiles during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, in Chicago, after agreeing to a five-year contract extension with the NHL hockey team. The 29-year-old Sharp tied for eighth in the league with a team-leading 34 goals and was third on the club with a career-high 71 points. (AP Photo/Chicago Sun-Times, Scott Stewart) CHICAGO OUT MAGS OUT

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Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp smiles during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, in Chicago, after agreeing to a five-year contract extension with the NHL hockey team. The 29-year-old Sharp tied for eighth in the league with a team-leading 34 goals and was third on the club with a career-high 71 points. (AP Photo/Chicago Sun-Times, Scott Stewart) CHICAGO OUT MAGS OUT

CHICAGO - Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman doesn't consider forward Patrick Sharp to be a good player.

Bowman ranks Sharp, who led the Blackhawks with 34 goals last season, as a "prominent player." So Bowman made it a priority to sign Sharp to a five-year contract extension, a move the team completed and announced Wednesday.

The 29-year-old Sharp tied for eighth in the league in goals last season and was third on the club with a career-high 71 points. He added three goals and two assists in the playoffs as the Blackhawks lost to Vancouver in the first round following a run to the Stanley Cup title the previous year.

Sharp's numbers would have been better had he not suffered a left knee injury in a game in Phoenix on March 20. He missed seven games, then returned with three games left in the regular season to help the Blackhawks squeak into the playoffs on the final day of the season.

Sharp said on Wednesday he has fully recovered from the injury. The contract extension is a perfect cure from persistent speculation about his future with the Blackhawks.

"Getting this out of the way should clear up things for me and allows me to just show up and be a good player and great teammate and to not focus on the individual stuff," Sharp said.

Bowman also wanted to get the deal done.

"Especially with Patrick, we didn't want it (contract talks) to stretch into the start of the regular season," Bowman said. "He's just a very important part of this team.

"So to have him always be hounded by questions ... It's part of being a professional athlete to deal with distractions, but it can become a distraction in a negative way."

Sharp's current contract is heading into its final year and will pay him US$4.2 million in 2011-12. Bowman has repeatedly said he wants to keep the core of his team intact, and now Sharp is buttoned down to a long-term agreement along with stars such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa and goalie Corey Crawford.

Sharp was acquired in a trade from Philadelphia in December 2005 when the Blackhawks were in the middle of a stretch of missing the playoffs nine times in 10 years.

"It wasn't the best of teams," Sharp said. "We were out of the playoffs by Christmastime a lot of the time. But it gave me an opportunity."

Sharp blossomed as a top offensive player in Chicago, thanks to ample ice time he probably wouldn't have gotten on Philadelphia's deeper roster. When the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010—their first since 1961—Sharp pitched in 11 goals and 11 assists in 22 playoff games.

Under the contract extension, he could remain with the Blackhawks until 2017 if he's not traded.

And Bowman said a trade isn't likely.

Over the past several seasons, other NHL general managers have inquired about Sharp but Bowman said his answer has always been the same.

"You can ask the other GMs," Bowman said. "They would always ask about him and I would say, 'No, we're not trading him,' and then we would move on to someone else."

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