June 30, 2015 By Paul Gackle

Sharks, Wilson Go All-In With Martin Jones Trade

SAN JOSE — Doug Wilson is awfully confident that the San Jose Sharks are going to return to the playoffs next year.

The Sharks general manager set the bar for the 2015-16 season in April and he showed that he believes what he’s selling on Tuesday, trading the Sharks 2016 first-round draft pick in a package with unsigned prospect Sean Kuraly to the Boston Bruins for goalie Martin Jones.

In doing so, Wilson upped the ante for next season, confirming that it’s playoffs or bust for he and the Sharks.

After refusing to enter bidding wars for Cam Talbot, Robin Lehner and Eddie Lack at the draft over the weekend, Wilson threw all of his chips on the table a day before free agency opens by giving away the Sharks 2016 first-round pick for a 25-year-old goalie with only 34 games of NHL experience under his belt.

Despite his inexperience, Jones is a promising acquisition for the Sharks.

His career numbers (1.99 goals-against average, .923 save percentage) as Jonathan Quick’s backup for the Los Angeles Kings are more than respectable, he’s highly regarded across the league, and listed at 6-foot-4, 189 pounds, he fits the mold of the modern NHL goalie.

In 2013-14, he tied former-Philadelphia Flyers’ netminder Bob Froese’s league record by winning his first eight NHL starts, posting a 0.98 goals-against average and a .966 save percentage in that span.

If Jones lives up the hype, a first-round pick would be a reasonable price to pay for his services. Sure-fire goalies are hard to find in the draft, so if the 25-year-old turns out to be a cornerstone of the franchise for the next five, eight, ten years, it’s a smart investment.

But goalies’ futures are hard to project, so this trade comes with a lot of risk, too.

The hype around Jones over the last two years is based on an extremely-small sample size, just 34 games. At this point, he could wind being another gem, like Quick, or he could regress to the mean and be a bust, like Al Montoya. No one can predict his future with any certainty.

But Jones needs to get the Sharks into the playoffs in a highly-competitive Western Conference next season for this trade to make sense. If the Sharks miss the playoffs again, the pick they sent to the Bruins could wind up being a top-ten selection, which would be a gross overpayment for a goalie who ultimately couldn’t change the team’s bottom line.

The only benefit to missing the playoffs is the draft pick that you receive at the end of June.

Without a playoff berth, the Sharks would be better off rolling with Alex Stalock, Troy Grosenick, or whomever else they could acquire on the cheap, and taking another stab at the goalie market in 2016.

But maybe Wilson knows that his job is on the line next year. He was willing to give away the Sharks’ first-round pick because if they don’t make the playoffs, he isn’t going to be back anyway. The absence of a first-round pick would end up being somebody else’s problem next June.

Either way, the Sharks are all-in with Jones and value of this trade will be determined by whether the team returns to the playoffs next season.

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