We know that San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson needs to find a third-line center this offseason, but there haven’t been many suggestions about a realistic candidate. It doesn’t economically make sense to acquire a player who wants $10 million per season.
That being said, my pick for this very important role is Mikael Granlund. Granlund has successfully flown under the radar this offseason, given that Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, Alex Ovechkin, Dougie Hamilton, and Gabriel Landeskog are all unrestricted free agents (UFAs). It’s a perfect storm for a cap-strapped Sharks club.
The Case for Granlund
Picked ninth overall in the 2010 Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild, Granlund has largely lived up to expectations during his NHL career. I will go so far as to say that the Finnish forward has been astounding. In nine seasons, he has registered at least 30 points eight times. But it doesn’t stop there. He has had three 50-point seasons. He isn’t Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby, but he’s a reliable goal-scorer with solid defensive specs.
Granlund’s most successful season offensively was in 2016-2017, when he played left-wing alongside Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker. They played together for most of the 2017-2018 season also, and they became the two most productive seasons of Granlund’s career. The challenge for the San Jose Sharks will be to find players who can compliment Granlund’s services in the same way Koivu and Zucker did, and the Sharks have the talent to put beside him.
At 29 years old, Granlund is still in his prime. He has a lot of game left in him, and he has proven to be a game-changer with whoever he’s playing with. I think there is a good argument to be made here. He may not get back to scoring 60 points a season in San Jose, but he doesn’t have to. What he should be tasked with is providing some kind of offense on the third line. If he can pot 20 goals – which is well within his ability – that would be plenty for the Sharks to be successful.
This raises another point about what Granlund brings to San Jose. He has played left wing a lot in his time with the Nashville Predators, but he is also capable of playing center. This versatility enables him to move up and down the lineup as needed. This, again, is something the Sharks could really use; if he’s put on the first line, he’ll produce, and if he’s put on the third line, he’ll also produce. He has also evaded major injuries, which is arguably one of the most important pieces of being a successful athlete: staying healthy.
One of the major concerns is whether he can play well defensively. As someone who puts a premium on forwards being able to play defense, I want to know that the Sharks will choose a player to fill the center role who will be reliable in their own end. Some have suggested that Montreal Canadiens pending UFA Phillip Danault could be that defensive center for the Sharks, but the issue with Danault is that he doesn’t score goals. He is almost exclusively a defensive player, and the prospect of paying him $6 million for several years to not score goals is way too big a pill to swallow.
Granlund has averaged just 17 penalty minutes per season since he entered the NHL, and he has registered 38 hits, on average, per year. He is disciplined in his own end, without allowing the opposition to zip by him unimpeded. He has a lot of experience playing against the opposition’s top line, which would make it easy for head coach Bob Boughner to put him out there against players like Mark Stone (Vegas Golden Knights) and Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche). Unlike Danault, Granlund can register a lot of points while also shutting down the opposition.
He’s a player coaches can trust.
It should also be mentioned that Granlund is the epitome of clutch.
The back-breaking reality is that the Sharks’ cap situation is abysmal, considering Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson‘s nasty contracts. But again, these defensemen might need better offensive production from their forwards. It could be they are on the backend of their careers, and for that reason, we shouldn’t expect much more from them. It’s difficult to tell. What’s certain is that their performance has come nowhere close to the money they are receiving.
Considering the Sharks’ situation, Granlund makes the most sense. He could realistically be acquired for $6 million per year, and it wouldn’t break the bank for the club. He may be looking for a long-term deal, which could still work for the Sharks if they decide to part ways with injury-prone Logan Couture or Evander Kane. That is not to say I think it’s a good idea to trade either of them, but it’s a possibility. The club has to consider all their options and weigh the talent they will get for the amount of money they’ll be dishing out.
Granlund Could Be a Steal
Granlund has successfully flown under the radar this offseason, even though he is a very versatile player. It’s still unclear if the Predators intend to re-sign him, but it would be a good idea for Wilson to entertain the idea of acquiring him to inject some life into a team that looks like it’s entering an inadvertent rebuild. Considering that the Sharks will have a lot of trouble with the cap in the coming years, Granlund is a huge bang for the buck.
As with many young kids who grow up in the Midwest, CG played a lot of hockey. His love and appreciation for the game is why he’s here, writing for The Hockey Writers, covering his two favorite teams: Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks. But he writes other things, too, including a debut novel that is set to come out in July of 2021. You can find him on Twitter @TheLastSisyphus.