Time was ticking since the start of training camp for Tommy Wingels. Last season, the physical forward was often scratched from the lineup by San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. More of the same from Wingels was seen again this season as his play did not satisfy DeBoer, leading to healthy scratches. Like former teammate, Matt Nieto, he was the most likely candidate to depart San Jose.
Wingels’ career with the Sharks ended before the team’s 4-3 win over the Jets. General Manager Doug Wilson traded the forward to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Buddy Robinson and Zack Stortini along with a seventh-round draft pick in 2017. San Jose retained some of Wingels’ salary as part of the deal. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
San Jose was looking toward the future, and Wingels was not part of the plans. Roster spots were on the line for some current Sharks’ veterans when training camp opened and prospects on the Barracuda roster were ready to crack the NHL lineup and push current Sharks’ players out the door. Fortunately for Wingels, he remained on the roster as DeBoer elected to skate a veteran lineup for opening night against Los Angeles.
The forward was never able to find his footing after a career season in 2013-14 registering 38 points. He followed up his career campaign with 36 points the following season, but his production has sharply declined since. This season, Wingels has eight points in 37 games, and he just did not fit into DeBoer’s system and could not consistently give solid efforts on a nightly basis.
Although Wingels is no longer part of San Jose’s plans, he certainly still has a career in the NHL. Ottawa is getting a great player who could certainly make an impact as a second or third line forward. Like Nieto, he is a player who deserves to play on a regular basis where he can make an impact. At age 28, he’s certainly got plenty left in the tank and will likely get a multi-year deal come free agency after the season.
The Move Comes as No Surprise
As I have mentioned in previous articles, the Sharks’ are clearing space for younger players to get inserted into the lineup. Among them is Tomas Hertl, who appears ready to return to the lineup after recovering from his latest knee injury which required surgery. The jury is still out if Hertl can ever hit his potential with the Sharks.
With San Jose, up against the salary cap, a move was bound to happen through sending players to the AHL, waivers, or trades. Chances are that Robinson and Stortini will not see NHL action despite Stortini playing in 257 NHL games. The draft pick acquired is more valuable to Wilson in efforts to keep the Sharks’ farm system prosperous in talent and he may trade the pick to move up in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Roster Moves to Accommodate Hertl
With the imminent return of Hertl, the Sharks made a few roster transactions after the Wingels trade. Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier were reassigned to the Barracuda but shouldn’t raise any alarms — the move will be short-lived as both should be back for the game against the Oilers.
After Edmonton on Thursday night, the Sharks will be off until Tuesday when they have a home matchup against the Blackhawks. The Barracuda have two road games during the Sharks’ time off and both games could certainly benefit Labanc and Meier.
Meier could have the most benefit after a slow start — he certainly wants to be on the Sharks roster after finding his scoring touch in the AHL. After Labanc had made an early impact after getting called up, his production dropped off a short time and was returned to the Barracuda. Sharks’ coaches told Labanc to continue what he did in the NHL and would be back. Labanc took the message to heart and is with the Sharks.
For Meier, he could certainly take a page from his teammate to build confidence. In any case, no matter where the Sharks’ stand against the salary cap, DeBoer will skate the best players made available to him.