For a team that had such a disappointing postseason, the San Jose Sharks have not been very active thus far in free agency. Then again, the same was true last summer.
On the evening of July 2, 2008, I wrote a scathing article about the Sharks inaction dropping them from Stanley Cup contender to a team that would struggle to make the playoffs. By the morning of July 4, I was writing about how the Sharks had just done the most to improve of any contenders.
Through last summer, I learned to have a bit more patience and faith in General Manager Doug Wilson. But that does not override my duty to analyze the efforts to date.
For starters, there is a long list of free agents who left their teams that the Sharks would have benefited from signing. This is not to say that Wilson did not pursue them or does not have a better handle on how to use his cap space.
However, there are four scorers and three grinders I would have pursued who were signed away from their teams. They are listed below in order of how much they would have helped the Sharks (scorers first, as that is the greater need):
1. Marian Hossa (signed with Blackhawks)
The bridesmaid of the last two Stanley Cups is a player I do not think particularly highly of. He is only an average defensive player who has not come up big in the biggest games, having no playoff success prior to 2008 and playing poorly in the 2009 Finals.
Moreover, he showed horrible judgment by thinking his chance of winning a Stanley Cup was better in one year with a waning dynasty than seven with a growing one. But he also has been deeper in the playoffs than almost any Sharks forward, and is the pure scorer to mesh with playmaker Joe Thornton the Sharks lack.
2. Martin Havlat (signed with Wild)
Havlat is the clutch player the Sharks lack. He scored big goals throughout the Calgary series, including both the game-tying goal in the final three minutes of a game, followed by the overtime game-winner. He has leadership and scoring ability, and would have therefore been worth the risk of his injury-prone history before 2008-09.
3. Mike Knuble (signed with Capitals)
The Sharks lack right-handed scorers and impact players with experience among their forwards. Knuble is a leader with a lot of playoff (and Olympic) experience with not only a knack for finding the back of the net, but an ability to play on both ends of the ice.
4. Mikael Samuelsson (signed with Canucks)
The former Shark, similar to Knuble, was everything the Sharks needed. A right-handed winger with a knack for finding the back of the net and an ability to be an asset on both ends of the ice, what he lacks in leadership in comparison to the other Mike, he makes up for in championship pedigree. He would have been ideal to pair with Jumbo.
5. Samuel Pahlsson (signed with Blue Jackets)
The Sharks have plenty of good centres and even fair well in the two areas Pahlsson would have helped the most: penalty killing and faceoffs. However, the team looks like they will be losing a player who fills both roles in Marcel Goc, and Pahlsson would have been an affordable upgrade, being a capable offensive player, as well.
Moreover, he brings one thing the Sharks sorely lack to the table: Stanley Cup success. In fact, he led the famous "orange line" of the Anaheim Ducks that dominated Ottawa's line of Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson many regarded as the best in hockey in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals on both ends of the ice.
6. John Madden (signed with Blackhawks)
Madden is a perennial Selkie Trophy finalist as the best defensive forward in the league, and would help to not only upgrade the third line, but special teams--he is a penalty killer extraordinaire. He also has the championship pedigree the Sharks desperately need.
7. Ian Laperriere (signed with Flyers)
Laperriere is one of my favourite players because of his mental and physical toughness. He is also what Jody Shelley is not as an enforcer--one of the best leaders on the ice in the game, having some offensive skills, and a more intimidating hitter who actually wins his fights. He would be a welcome addition to not only the checking lines and the locker room, but also the penalty kill.
There are other players the Sharks could have benefited from, but not others I would have been hot after. For instance, Mike Cammalleri is a scorer, but not good enough defensively and lacking in playoff experience.
Brian Gionta would have provided the right-handed scorer with championship experience. But his diminuative stature would mean that he does not provide the type of scorer the Sharks most need--one who can bang with defencemen in front of the net for rebounds.
There are also additional players the Sharks should continue to pursue, whether through free agency or trade. There will be articles featuring a look at both of these options coming up.