The team is trading nickels and hoping for dollars in return.
If the ever-on-going “re-tool” of the last three years is to be successful by next season, the San Jose Sharks are facing an uphill battle. In some ways, they have a few advantages: a seventh-overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NHL Entry Draft, an expansion draft that may allow for off-loading of one of several ugly contracts and a couple of prospects that surprised over the last two seasons.
But all of that is overshadowed by what has been described as “an abundance of Chris Tierneys” in the organization’s depth chart. No offense to the Ottawa Senators’ one-time top-line center, but he does exemplify the type of player the Sharks have hoarded: a strong middle-six player who is occasionally brilliant, but often streaky, largely replaceable and weirdly over-valued.
If the Sharks are pursuing a trade where both sides receive an established NHL player, they are also going to be looking to upgrade one of their several Chris Tierneys in that process. Per The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, the Sharks’ trade block currently features forwards Kevin Labanc and Dylan Gambrell, as well as defender Radim Simek, which is … well, pretty bleak.
Of those, Labanc is likely the strongest trade target, but he’s been on the block since the trade deadline during the 2021 season and a deal has yet to go through. The 25-year-old winger seems to have peaked in the 2018-19 season, where he averaged .68 points per game, notching 17 goals and 39 assists. While the last two seasons come with a bit of an asterisk across the league, he’s still fallen short of the top-six role the Sharks hoped he would fill when he re-signed last October to a $4.725 million cap hit.
What Labanc has going for him is his age and being an established NHL presence over the last three seasons. Unfortunately, that’s just not very much to sell him on when the Sharks need a true top-six player in exchange.
As for Gambrell and Simek, Kurz also notes that general manager Doug Wilson is hoping to stock up draft picks this year, in a draft where they’ll select seventh overall and early in the following rounds. Either of these players are more likely to fetch a pick, but it’s also important to remember that between COVID-related scouting issues, COVID-related shortened or cancelled seasons and overall a bit of a weak draft class, even the prospect of getting picks for players doesn’t feel like much of a win.
Then again, a package of Chris Tierneys bought this team Erik Karlsson. There are general managers waiting to get fleeced around this time every year. For the first time in awhile, I’m doubting Wilson’s ability to pull it off.