The Sharks off-season hasn’t exactly been a rallying call for their northern California faithful, but there are reasons for optimism still. Firstly, the Sharks haven’t a roster opening that needs filling and even after they signed Jason Demers to a cap hit of $3.4 million next season, they have over $6 million with which to work. Secondly, this puts the Sharks in the rare but enviable position of being able to take on valuable players from contributing teams that themselves are up against the cap.
One such team -albeit lacking in contender status – would be the Washington Capitals. Following their off-season spending spree – a cautionary tale of what happens when new general managers enter the job with an owner willing to spend and cap space with which to do it – that resulted in the addition of nearly $70 million in commitment to players their rivals deemed expendable, Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, the Capitals have found themselves left with only $1.1 million in cap space.
This would hardly be anything to worry about, but if the Capitals off-season moves have indicated anything it’s that they are win-now mode – cute, right? The Chicago Blackhawks the Capitals are not, and having missed the boat on cheap options to fill their glaring vacancy at second-line center this is still a playoff bubble team. With little money or options left in free agency, the Capitals will need to clear space before they can do anything about that second line center hole. This, in combination with the fact that Mike Green is Mike Green, have led to speculation that the Capitals could be looking to offload Green, who has one year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $6.2 million.
The Capitals would be hard-pressed to find that second-line pivot as part of any trade involving Mike Green, especially if dealing with the Sharks, but it could help facilitate a trade with another club. With Joe Thornton captaining the Sharks (for now), it seems only right management follow his lead and get with the facilitating. Why not start here?
It Would Fill A Need
It’s hard to look at the Sharks’ roster and think of them as a team missing an awful lot, but when stacked up against teams like the Kings and Blackhawks there is a little left to be desired. In short: you can never have too many quality players.
Make no mistake about it, that’s exactly what they would be getting in Mike Green. Despite the perception of Green as a defensive liability, those who follow him closely can attest to the attention and improvement in that aspect of his game. This was found out by Tyler Dellow, who delved into the numbers to find out that Green was actually the best defenseman with regards to shutting down the opposition’s best forwards. This should hardly be surprising though, as Mike Green would lead the Capitals in Corsi Rel. with a positive 4.6% clip. They say the best defense is a good offense and what is more indicative of offense than your team having the puck with you on the ice?
Being a right-side defenseman, this move would force Justin Braun to slot on the third-pairing, which is great because it means Scott Hannan is relegated to the seventh defenseman role that he should be assuming anyways. Of course, a move like this would be contrary to the whole “rebuilding” mantra, since it would keep younger defenseman like Matt Tennyson and Mirco Mueller out of the lineup, but what about this offseason has been indicative of a rebuild anyways?
If the Sharks were to add Green to their already impressive group of defenseman, can you imagine a better six in the league? This is of course depending entirely on who they give back in any prospective trade, but with the Caps desperate to get cap space I can’t imagine it will be anyone of significant value.
The Absolute Best Part, Though
When you think of Mike Green, the first thing that comes to mind are his offensive abilities. Having a thirty-goal season can do that for a guy. While Green’s developed into a more reliable two-way force, there is still that element to his game. It’s honestly what makes him so appealing.
If last season proved anything, it’s that Brent Burns isn’t nearly as good a point-man with the power play as we once thought. While he was still skating regularly as a forward, the Sharks would still use him on the point with the man advantage to little-or-no success. Enter Mike Green, and that blue line will start to get an awful lot more attention.
The addition of Green could be that final piece that turns the Sharks power play from one that looks impressive, to one that is impressive. I mean, realistically the Sharks power play was way better than the results would have you believe.
Few things were as perplexing last season as the San Jose Sharks power play. While the Sharks were able to lead the league in generating shots with the man advantage, that rarely translated to goals. This is evident in the Sharks middling 17.2% conversion rate with the man-advantage. What makes this even more peculiar is that you would have been hard pressed to find a better looking power play than the Sharks last season. Did bad luck play a part? Certainly. Only three teams in the league had a lower shooting percentage than the Sharks 9.9% clip last season.
Well, the Capitals power play was second best in the league and while I’m hesitant to ever base player evaluation on shooting percentage, it’s worth noting that last season the Sharks converted on 3% more of their shots on the power play with Mike Green on the ice. I mean, yes, Ovechkin and all, but worth noting all the same.
Does It Happen?
I’m a firm believer in the world of hockey media that where this is smoke, there is fire; it’s what scares me the most about all of this Joe Thornton trade chatter. While Brian MacLellan has been quick to try and put out the trade rumour fires, the fact that they exist alone really does say a lot. They were around well before the MacLellan hire and it appears as though they will stick around for much of his first year too, assuming he doesn’t trade Green.
If the Capitals have serious plans of upgrading their second-line center, any and all moves will have to start with the trade of Green. Sure, he’s considerably better than Orpik and maybe even Niskanen too, but trading players immediately after signing them is a bad look and almost never happens. Green also only has one-year remaining on his contract.
For the Sharks this move makes all the sense in the world. Depending on which roster player they send the other way, they will still be left with a little cap space. More importantly though, they will have a defense corps that can stand up against any other in the league, to the last man.
I’m not sure exactly if the Sharks have anything the Capitals would want, but if they do… Oh boy, that’s worth some serious consideration.