The Chicago Blackhawks avoided having contract extension negotiations with Patrick Sharp spill into the 2011-12 season when they signed their leading goal scorer from last season to a five-year $29.5 million deal (figures via CapGeek). Sharp has one year left on his current contract with a cap hit of $3.9 million, and his new deal will carry an annual cap hit of $5.9 million.

Sharp is coming off of a career high in points with 71, and he tied Dustin Byfuglien with 11-goals during the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup championship run. He is 29-years old and has 316-points in 493 career games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Blackhawks.

There’s no denying that Sharp is a valuable player to the Blackhawks with his scoring ability and versatility, but his new price tag vaults him into Mike Richards, Sedin twins and Henrik Zetterberg contract territory. Sharp’s possession numbers from last season were good, not great, and he lined up in the offensive zone for a whopping 67% of his draws. The Hawks are paying him top tier money, when in reality he’s a second line player that can moonlight as a top liner. For comparison’s sake, both Richards and Zetterberg took less than 48% of their draws in the offensive zone. Unlike the Sedin twins, Sharp doesn’t boast 100 points to go along with his offensively favourable minutes.

For the Blackhawks, it seems as though maintaining a core group factored into the decision to reward Sharp so handsomely. Vice President/GM Stan Bowman on retaining Sharp:

“Patrick is a very important member of our organization and we are looking forward to him being part of a core group that will be a contender for many years to come. Over the last several years we have seen him develop into one of the game’s elite players as well as a fixture in the community and we are proud to be able to announce this news today.”

Chicago now has Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith all under contract through the 2014-15 season, and beyond for all but Kane and Toews.

Sharp will be 34-years old at the conclusion of the new contract, and maybe I’m wrong here but he strikes me as a guy who wouldn’t be extremely difficult to replace at a discounted rate. Anyway, it’s five-years and $29.5 for a two-time thirty goal scorer… not the worst decision.