Written by Joe Lami of the Sports Radio Service and can be followed on twitter at @joe_lami
As the 2014 NHL trade deadline approaches, the San Jose Sharks are once again in the playoff hunt. They currently sit in second place in the west, just five points behind the Anaheim Ducks, the league leaders. With the Sharks getting ready for their tenth straight Stanley Cup playoff appearance, the trade speculation is just beginning.
San Jose tends to make a deal every deadline, whether its a minor or a major move. Last year for instance, they acquired Raffi Torres from the Coyotes, as well as, bringing defenseman Scott Hannan back. This was after dumping upcoming unrestricted free agents Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe for draft picks. At the 2011-2012 deadline, the Sharks once again made a big splash by acquiring Daniel Winnik, T.J. Galiardi, and a seventh round pick from Colorado in exchange for Jamie McGinn, Mike Connolly, and Michael Sgarbossa. With the Sharks having such a history of making deals at the deadline, one must ask them self what are the Sharks going to be do this time around?
The Sharks will be looking at this trade deadline different because they believe they can compete for the cup with the current group that they have. The core group is the same as last year, where the Sharks were defeated by the Kings in the second round of the playoffs that went seven games. In a series where the home team won every game, the Sharks claimed to be just one bounce away from winning the series. It appears that the Kings could be the first round opponent this year, the only difference is that the Sharks would currently have the home ice advantage for that matchup.
San Jose is a very interesting team this year, but they seemed to be hit with the injury bug fairly hard. Of course no team has been hit as hard as Detroit, but the Sharks have been without Raffi Torres for the entire season, as he injured his knee in the pre-season. San Jose has also lost their Calder candidate in Thomas Hertl due to another knee injury, because of a knee-to-knee collision with Dustin Brown. Adam Burish, who had been injured all season long, played two games before the Olympic break. The other major injury for San Jose was with Logan Couture, who had been sidelined due to a hand issue. Couture, who was a hopeful for Team Canada, underwent surgery on January 8, the day after he wasn’t selected to play for the gold medal winning team.
The good news for the Sharks is that it seems that all of their stars are coming back at the same time.
In this situation, it’s almost if the Sharks are going to be making moves at the deadline, the only difference is that the players that are coming back know the system. As Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area stated “They aren’t technically trade acquisitions, but they all know what is expected of them and have knowledge of how to play the Sharks’ system”. So with all of these players making a comeback, the Sharks have a couple of situations to look at and address.
With the additions of Torres and Couture back into the lineup, the Sharks are currently over the Salary Cap by $1 million. Defenseman, Brad Stuart is also injured with a back issue that happened before the Olympic break. The Sharks can relieve a $3.6 million hit (according to capgeek.com), if they place Stuart on long term injured reserve. Even if they decide not to put Stuart on the IR, the Sharks will need to make a move to ease the cap. This is where things can get very difficult for San Jose in terms of not only making a trade that they want to make, but also a trade that will work with the cap space.
In terms of players that the Sharks are looking at, there have been multiple big names that have popped up on the rumor mill in the past couple of weeks. Some of these players include Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov, who carries a $5.75 million cap hit (capgeek.com) and, Edmonton winger Ales Hemsky, who carries a $5 million cap hit. San Jose has been rumored to be seeking a left-wing scorer. Hemsky falls under this category, but so do other big names in Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson and Mike Cammalleri. All carry big cap hits.
Former Buffalo captain, Steve Ott had been in the names that the Sharks were interested in. This was before he was sent to St. Louis in a blockbuster that landed Ryan Miller on the Blues as well. The Sharks have also been rumored to be associated with soon to be unrestricted free agent Ryan Callahan. Callahan is after a big contract at the end of this year that would be difficult for the Sharks to work out.
Financially speaking, some of the better options for the Sharks could involve working with the Florida Panthers. Even though the team could most likely look to acquire a left wing, the right wing could still be a valuable option for San Jose. Off of the Panthers, there are two players that are very intriguing. This is because of their value, but also because of their cap hits. Right Wing, Brad Boyes is the first player that would make sense for the Sharks. The 31-year old is on pace to score more than 20 goals this season in Sunrise. He also carries a $1 million cap hit (according to capgeek.com), which would make it a lot easier for San Jose to find room for them on their roster. Marcel Goc could be another player that may interest the Sharks. The return of once fan favorite Goc to teal would cause some excitement. The left-handed center brings a $1.7 million cap hit.
Now that we have gone through players in which the Sharks may be interested, here comes the hard part. Who are the Sharks going to be giving up if they decide to make a move or two at the deadline? We know this, San Jose’s development is questionable after making so many trades over the years. This means that general manager, Doug Wilson, is trying to build it back up, making it even more difficult to find the perfect mix to pull off a deal. This goes for draft picks as well, the Sharks are trying to stock up their picks to built for a post-Thornton and Marleau era. Some current Sharks that could be on their way out include Marty Havlat, James Sheppard and even Dan Boyle.
Martin Havlat has a $5 million cap hit, which would be the best contract to move out of San Jose if you’re Doug Wilson. However, it is not that easy. Havlat has struggled the past couple of years, and has been hit by the injury bug seemingly every year. He is just one of those players who can’t seem to remain healthy. Havlat also has a no movement clause in his contract, which makes it even more difficult to move him, and has said that he is not interested in moving anywhere. If Havlat is not moved at the deadline or at the draft, it seems almost certain that he is on his way to having his contract bought out by the Sharks, because they need the cap space to resign other soon to be restricted and unrestricted free agents.
James Sheppard is another player on the current San Jose roster about whom I am unsure. He is a very underrated player on the Sharks, and this is because he is rarely utilized. It seems to me that Sheppard just can’t find a spot in the lineup in San Jose, but could be used as a third-liner on pretty much any other team. He is one of those players that is constantly a healthy scratch. The soon-to-be restricted free agent could be moved because the Sharks might not see a future with him. Sheppard is making $830,000 this year, which doesn’t help much with cap space for the Sharks, but it does bring them down closer to the million that they are over right now.
Dan Boyle might be the most coveted man in teal right now. The 37-year old puck moving defenseman is in the final year of a contract that is paying him $6.6 million per year. Boyle is getting up there in age, but it is believed that he still has a lot left in the tank and can bring great value to a team. The real mystery surrounding Boyle and the Sharks is what is going on with his contract situation. The alternate captain hasn’t yet agreed to an extension, while Thornton and Marleau are both locked up for another three years each. What happened with Boyle’s contract extension? Why hasn’t it been completed yet? These are the questions that Sharks fans are asking themselves. This is also the reason why there is speculation about his future with the team. Do the Sharks trade him now and get something for him, or bring him into the playoffs and risk losing him in the off-season to free agency. This is a question that only Doug Wilson can answer.
The Sharks are in a tight spot going into the 2014 trade deadline. They’re getting injured players back and have yet to see what their team looks like 100% healthy. It doesn’t help that the Sharks are up against the cap, and it seems like they don’t have pieces that are good enough to move, and the ones that they do they want to hold onto. I see the San Jose Sharks not making a major splash at this year’s deadline. Fans shouldn’t expect a big acquisition this year, if any. The Sharks might just stay pat. The past history of the Sharks says that a deal might be made, but if it is expect it to be a small one. With San Jose who knows; they can turn everything upside down and take you by surprise. The only person who has any idea of what the upcoming future will hold for the Sharks is Doug Wilson, and we’re just going to have to wait until Wednesday at noon PST to find out.