We are now less than a week away from the NHL Trade Deadline and talks are heating up. Where does each team stand and what moves should they be looking to make? We continue our look around the league with the San Jose Sharks.
Earlier this season, it appeared as if the San Jose Sharks were in for another disappointing year. The club wanted to use the shortened 2020-21 campaign to evaluate their core and the early returns were not encouraging. However, the past few weeks have changed everything. The Sharks are 6-3-1 in their past ten games, including four straight wins. In the meantime, the St. Louis Blues have continued to slump while four of the Sharks’ recent wins have come against the Los Angeles Kings. Suddenly, San Jose finds themselves in contention for a playoff spot in the West Division, just three points back with a game in hand on the fourth-place Arizona Coyotes.
With that said, some recent luck is not going to change the Sharks’ plans for the season. The team is not going to give up major assets for short-term help just on the off-chance that they can sneak into the playoffs where the West’s daunting top three teams await. The core is still in the process of proving themselves and San Jose likely wants to see if they have the pieces in place to be a playoff team once again, knowing that rentals will not put themselves over the top this season. This does not mean that the Sharks will sit back at the deadline though; the club has some fringe pieces on expiring contracts that they could look to deal away and there are some needs beyond this season that they may discover a chance to address. In short, San Jose is unlikely to stand pat, but don’t expect them to sell off anything more than rental pieces or to acquire any major rental help of their own.
17-16-4, .514, T-5th in East Division
Light Seller/Opportunistic Buyer
Deadline Cap Space
$2.41MM in full-season space ($10.74MM at the deadline), 0/3 retention slots used, 48/50 contracts used per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2021: SJS 1st, SJS 3rd, SJS 4th, SJS 5th, SJS 6th, SJS 7th
2022: SJS 1st, SJS 2nd, SJS 3rd, SJS 4th, SJS 6th, MIN 7th
In terms of rentals, the Sharks do not have much to offer other buyers. However, for that same reason they will probably not hesitate to move any of their expiring contracts if there is interest. None of the Sharks’ impending UFA’s are anything more than depth pieces, in San Jose or elsewhere. The Sharks’ ability to retain salary if need be could result in some better trade returns, but there isn’t much to get excited about.
Among the rental group, veteran goaltender Devan Dubnyk is likely their most valuable trade chip, if only because he is one of a small number of available net minders with postseason experience. The Sharks’ plan to combine Dubnyk and Martin Jones and hope one will rediscover their starter status has not really worked out. Jones has improved marginally this year, but Dubnyk has been a bust. The 34-year-old has an .898 save percentage and 3.18 GAA thus far, resulting in just three wins on the year. Dubnyk will not command much of a return unless the scarcity of goalies creates a bidding war. There are certainly those in San Jose who would like to see Jones traded, but that move won’t happen at the deadline, if it ever happens at all.
Up front, Patrick Marleau is the biggest name, but not likely to be the most valuable. Sure, Marleau brings more experience and leadership than most in the game, but he did not work out as a rental for the Pittsburgh Penguins last year and that was even after finding decent success with the Sharks pre-trade. The 41-year-old has been a non-factor this season with just six points 37 games and may not even have any suitors. Making the playoffs one last time with the Sharks would probably mean more than another go-round as a rental for the respected veteran. The real name to watch among San Jose’s expiring forwards is Marcus Sorensen. Although his production has been poor this season, Sorenson is a good two-way forward and notched 17 goals and 30 points just two years ago. Contenders looking for fourth line options could do worse than Sorenson. Matthew Nieto and Kurtis Gabriel are other bottom-six forwards who could have value, but Nieto is currently injured and Gabriel has become a well-liked locker room presence for the Sharks this year, so neither is a lock to leave.
1) Term Forward – Even if the Sharks don’t venture into true “buyer” territory, they still need to keep their eyes open for possible forward additions for next season – or more accurately, for the Expansion Draft. San Jose is in a tough situation when it comes to meeting the exposure requirements of the impending draft. Currently, they have just five forwards who meet the games played and term criteria and all five will almost certainly be protected: Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin Labanc. They have zero forwards who can meet the exposure requirements simply by playing more games this season. This means that the Sharks must add two forward before the draft, either by re-signing or acquisition. Their extension candidates, who would qualify by only signing on for another year, include Sorenson, Marleau, and Nieto – any of whom could be traded and none of whom appear to be part of the Sharks’ future – and Dylan Gambrell and Rudolfs Balcers, who would seemingly be competing for the seventh and final protection spot. As a result, it seems more likely than not that San Jose will need to make an addition before June and they may as well add some additional help before the deadline, especially if the likes of Sorenson, Marleau, or Nieto head out of town. The Sharks could honestly use another long-term top-six forward, especially with the futures of Kane and Hertl in doubt, if they do decide to take a bigger swing at the deadline.
2) Goaltender – If the Sharks do trade Dubnyk, they won’t have much choice but to add another goaltender. The club likes young keepers Alexei Melnichuk and Josef Korenar, but the duo’s AHL numbers show that they are not ready for NHL backup duty this year and probably not next year either. San Jose could look for a cheaper rental to replace Dubnyk or they could look for a goalie with term or an impending free agent that would warrant an extension. The Sharks have previously been linked to the Florida Panthers’ Chris Driedger.
3) Prospect Defensemen – If the Sharks are not successful in landing valuable draft picks in exchange for their rentals, they should target defensive prospects. While San Jose has some nice young defensemen at the NHL level, the pipeline is all but bare behind polarizing Ryan Merkley. The team desperately needs to add bodies on the blue line, especially with an aging core in the NHL and the potential to lose a roster defenseman in the Expansion Draft.