Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. — Oscar Wilde.
San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson hasn’t exactly earned the nickname “Deadline Doug” during his tenure as top dog of hockey operations in San Jose. Nevertheless, he is certainly no stranger to the concept. A few weeks before the 2010 deadline, he picked up stay-at-home defenseman Niclas Wallin and a low draft pick for the Sharks’ 2nd round pick. A year earlier at the deadline, Wilson traded for Travis Moen and Kent Huskins, and the year before that, he engineered a blockbuster deal that netted rental defenseman Brian Campbell.
Although it’s still early, one can bet that he’ll be scouring the rosters of 29 other NHL teams as the February 28th trade deadline approaches, looking for pieces that can complete the team’s puzzle carrying (relatively) affordable price tags. After spinning Dany Heatley, Devon Setoguchi and various futures into Brent Burns and Martin Havlat just this past off-season, it’s clear management will make bold moves as required in order to give the team its best chance of climbing the final rung onto the biggest of all stages: the Stanley Cup finals.
As always, the competition in the west remains fierce. The Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and Vancouver Canucks look to join the Sharks at the top of the class as the halfway mark approaches. However, the suddenly-surging Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators are climbing in the standings, with the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes firmly in the mix. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks appear to be DOA as of this writing. Not coincidentally, they may contain tantalizing pieces that may become available as their situations resolve themselves in the next 30-45 days.
Arguably, the Sharks’ top need is grit and offensive depth, particularly for the third line. With that said, here is the list of five players that could help San Jose’s quest to exorcize a few ghosts and win the West this season:
Brad Boyes: At first glance, you’re probably going to scan his stats, furrow your brow, clear your throat and then loudly question my sanity. However, consider that he’s just 2.5 years away from a 33 goal campaign, which was a year behind a 43 goal season, and that scouting reports indicate he absolutely needs a good playmaker on his line in order to thrive — which the Sharks have in spades. He’s also still on the right side of 30, an impending UFA, with the forward situation in Buffalo looking very, very crowded. Best of all, given his statistical decline but solid pedigree, it could be a low-risk, high-return deal if the Sharks can clear the requisite cap space without breaking the bank, as no reasonable offer would likely be refused in Buffalo.
Obviously, something went wrong with Boyes’ game after his two big seasons, as his shooting touch (along with his confidence) disappeared. Allegedly, the stick manufacturer he was using went out of business, and real or imagined, he’s never found himself as comfortable with his stick ever since. With a playoff contender, a good playmaker on his line and a 3,000 mile change of scenery, however, there’s a chance he could regain his shooting touch. It might cost a relatively-innocuous draft pick and some previously-cleared cap space to find out.
Niklas Hagman: Hagman was claimed by the Ducks off re-entry waivers on
November 14, and after a slow start with Anaheim, began racking up the points. In a recent six game stretch, he notched four goals and three assists, earning a spot on the Ducks’ top line in the process. With the season the Ducks are having and the impending UFA status of Hagman, they’ll almost certainly move him at the deadline for future assets. He’d cost a bit more than Boyes, but he’s also an easier fit under the cap.
Paul Gaustad: Goose is one of the better faceoff men in the league, and is known more for his defense than offense. However, although down statistically this season, he’s got 12 goal, 35 point potential, can play the wing, and would add bulk and aggressiveness currently in short supply on the team. Approximately $500,000 cheaper than Hagman, he’s an even easier fit under the cap.
Eric Christensen: Like Hagman before his recent resurrection, the market for Christensen is limited, which might portend well for a team like San Jose looking for supplemental pieces, not a complete overhaul. Christensen has a rocket shot, wizardly hands in the shootout, can play both center and wing and, best of all, has a very manageable $925,000 cap hit. He’s a guy that never quite made it above a certain plateau, but could absolutely help a team loading up for a playoff run.
Olli Jokinen: Sure, it’s much more far-fetched than the other names on this list, but if we’ve learned nothing else from Seinfeld, it’s to leave the room with the crowd wanting more. Jokinen would cost much more than any other player on this list, even if he is an impending UFA. He’s played wing in the past, particularly for the Finnish National team, and although he’s not the player he was between 2005-06 and 2007-08, he can still light the lamp now and then. With exactly one playoff series under his belt in a 13-year career, a trade to San Jose would almost certainly be a welcome chance to compete on the highest stage once again.