The State of the San Jose Sharks
With Dan Boyle officially no longer a San Jose Shark, the off-season changes have begun in the Bay Area. Doug Wilson has been more vocal about the Sharks shortcomings than at any time during his reign as the Sharks GM. He has stated that players such as Matt Nieto, Tomas Hertl and Mirco Mueller will not be traded while also saying he wants players, “who want to play here, not just live here.”
Take what you want from these comments because only so much can be done as the following players have some form of No-Trade or No-Movement Clause making any type of trade difficult; Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Marty Havlat, Raffi Torres, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Brad Stuart. Antti Niemi is the only player on the team making over 3 million per year that does not have some form of NTC or NMC. Still if you can trade Wayne Gretzky you can trade anyone regardless of their contract.
The team currently has 61.6 million locked up in next year’s contracts leaving a lot of room with the cap ceiling expected to rise to 70 million next season. This does not even factor in Marty Havlat’s 5 million dollar cap hit which will either be bought out or traded over the summer as Doug Wilson has already stated publicly that he will not return next season. This will potentially leave the Sharks with 14 million in cap space, give or take. From there we can only speculate what the team will do this off-season.
A Long Summer, Problems in Net
Beginning in the crease, numerous hockey personalities have talked about why the Sharks should trade Antti Niemi (30) and find a better goaltender. As great of an idea as that is, the goal-tending market is barren at best. Here is a list of the current Unrestricted Free Agent goaltenders who at some point have been NHL starters in their career. Ryan Miller (33), Martin Brodeur (42), Jonas Hiller (32), Tim Thomas (40), Devin Dubnyk (28), Evgeni Nabokov (38), Ilya Bryzgalov (33), Nikolai Khabibulin (41), Tomas Vokoun (37), Ray Emery (31). Only five goaltenders are under the age of 35 and only one is under the age of 30. So sticking with Antti Niemi for one more season when his contract is up and resigning Alex Stalock seems like the safest action to take.
Who replaces Dan Boyle?
With the departure of Dan Boyle and the recent decline of the Sharks defense this is where the Sharks need to focus their efforts during the summer. Larry Robinson has improved some aspects of the defense such as the penalty kill but the defense as a whole has declined over the past two seasons. With Brent Burns moving back to defense as stated publicly by Doug Wilson that should alleviate some of the holes but doesn’t solve everything. Brent Burns has to prove that he can not only play the position again but also be one of the top players on the back end.
Players such as Jason Demers if resigned, and Matt Irwin need to improve to take pressure off of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun. Even then the Sharks still need to pursue a defenseman in free agency or via a trade since they haven’t used their prospects much at all. Taylor Doherty, Nick Petreki and Matt Tennyson have played a combined total of 5 NHL games and Mirco Mueller may need one more season to develop. If the defense was not a concern before it most certainly is now.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
The San Jose Sharks easily have some of the best depth at the center position in the entire NHL. Who else can say they boast an Olympian and 79 point scoring center, Joe Pavelski, on their 3rd line? The problem is that now the Sharks depth at center now goes beyond just Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. Tomas Hertl played on the left wing during the entity of his rookie campaign out of necessity despite being drafted as a center. This really is the best time for the Sharks to trade a center due to their ridiculous depth at the position.
Another reason is the fact that Brent Burns was moved back to defense and Marty Havlat will be either bought out or traded. This means that soon the Sharks top scoring natural right winger on the team will be Tyler Kennedy, a player who was demoted time and time again and eventually left out of the lineup. The Sharks also have good depth at the left wing position with Patrick Marleau, Matt Nieto and Raffi Torres.
Trading Joe Thornton
The Sharks have the talent at center to replace him. Joe Pavelski or Logan Couture can center the top line it can be argued last season that the top line was Logan Couture’s at times. They may not match Joe Thornton’s point production but both players are better all around.Thornton no longer plays on the PK, has a pass first mentality and is one of the slower players on the team. Both Pavelski and Couture play on the PK and PP units and shoot the puck just as much as they pass the puck making them move versatile.
For the sake of argument, Patrick Marleau is also a more versatile player. Marleau plays on both the PP and PK units, is one of the fastest skaters on the team and has the ability to play both wing and center. Both players will continue to decline as they get older but Patrick Marleau has more versatility making him more useful down the road. At this point Thornton’s value will only diminish over each season making his trade value now the highest it will ever be. Joe Thornton has been a terrific player for the San Jose Sharks and may be inducted into the Hall of Fame one day but sometimes a team must move on.
If you disagree then perhaps you should read why the San Jose Sharks should NOT trade Joe Thornton.