In the first two articles I wrote on what the Sharks needed to do in order to form a roster more capable of winning in the playoffs, I suggested two trades.
The first involved trading Christian Ehrhoff and Milan Michalek to the Ottawa Senators for Dany Heatley. In the second, the move I favoured was Jonathan Cheechoo to Toronto for the more experienced, grittier (but less skilled) Jamal Mayers.
In total, those moves were designed to not only improve scoring that has been the Achilles heel of the Sharks in the past four playoffs, but also clear cap space. The Sharks are currently less than $600,000 from the cap with only 16 skaters and one goalie under contract, and need to have at least 18 and two goalies to have a complete roster.
The moves I suggested freed up about $1.6 million in space, but actually cost the team one skater. That room was designed to allow the Sharks to sign centre Torrey Mitchell, enforcer Brad Staubitz, and backup goalie Thomas Greiss, leaving them one skater short.
Chances are they would not have enough room to sign another skater or promote a minor leaguer to complete their roster, however. Thus, additional room must be made.
My next move is to dump Jody Shelley, who becomes expendable because the Sharks would have two enforcers--Mayers and Staubitz--on the active roster. Shelley scored only four points last season, is an average fighter, and makes more than the minimum.
Moving him can allow the Sharks to promote blue-liner Derek Joslin and forward Jed Ortmeyer and complete an active roster. Ortmeyer is capable of playing at the NHL level, and coach Todd McLellan can go with seven active defencemen.
However, any team needs to have at least two scratched players in case of emergency. So what moves can allow two more skaters to be signed/promoted, and who should they be?
Ultimately, there needs to be another trade, and there is not one player on the roster the Sharks do not need. Therefore, anyone traded needs to be replaced.
For starters, those on the NHL roster who are eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season are top options, and that leaves Patrick Marleau, Brad Lukowich, and Evgeni Nabokov. Then you have to find teams that may want those players and who have another they may be willing to trade who is paid less.
Marleau was covered in my first article. I dismissed the idea of trading him because not only does he have a no-trade clause, but he is one of the top scorers on a team that has too little of it, and he has worked on his defence.
Lukowich could still be traded because the Sharks could get by with Joslin. However, as the lowest-paid defenceman and one of the team's most experienced players, letting a solid stay-at-home defenceman go does not seem wise.
Then again, Evgeni Nabokov is obviously capable of playing the number of games a team with inexperienced Thomas Greiss as a back-up would need. In 2007-08, Nabby put in 77 games en route to finishing as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top netminder.
Adding to that on his resume, Nabby is 4-2 with lower than a two-goals-against average in elimination games the past two seasons. Trading him for another goalie capable of doing what he is going to be tough, especially since teams are generally reluctant to part with such a player for a higher-paid alternative.
Sometimes you can make a trade with a team looking either to get a younger player at the position, but with Nabby being 34, that is not happening. If teams are looking for a more experienced goalie, the Sharks' efforts to win now--something they are clearly built for--take a hit.
This effectively rules out trading Nabby. Sure, Doug Wilson could dump Nabby and sign Manny Fernandez for less money, but they are the same age and Manny has way less playoff experience.
Which brings us
back to Brad Lukowich. As much as he brings to the table at an
affordable cost, he really is the only option to trade.
One team that might be interested in Luko is Minnesota. He plays the defensive style they have been built for, and they have only five blue-liners under contract. They also have more forwards than they can have active, and could trade two of them for Luko, completing both San Jose's and Minnesota's rosters.
Unfortunately, there is no way the Wild part with Cal Clutterbuck, who would be the physical presence the Sharks could really use more of. The only real choices that fit the cap restraints of the Sharks are RWs Petr Kalus and Craig Weller.
Weller, 28, is a capable player who had three points in 36 games last season. Kalus is a prospect who is only 22, and unlikely to be on the table.
That leaves the Sharks trading Luko for Weller and a draft pick--probably a second-rounder, giving the Sharks over $1 million to have scratched players on the NHL roster. The Sharks would then have the following lines:
- Heatley-Thornton-Setoguchi (scorer-playmaker-skater), Boyle-Huskins (offence-defence) on the blueline
- Marleau-Pavelski-Clowe (skater-utility-power forward), Blake-Vlasic (two-way savvy vet and two-way young skater)
- Vesce-Mitchell-Mayers (scorer-skater-enforcer), Murray-Joslin (hitter and puck-mover)
- Ortmeyer-Nichol-Staubitz (utility-defence-enforcer), plus D Joe Callahan and Weller scratched.
This is hardly the level roster that was unable to get out of the first round in 2009, but certainly one that could compete for the Pacific Division title. San Jose would still be home to a truly elite one-two punch of scoring lines and bluelines, would have a very good number one netminder, and serviceable checking lines and third pair. All linemates would compliment each other well.Then after this unit fails to get out of the Western Conference playoffs, the overhaul happens next season--possibly including management.