Sharks Don’t Need To Hit The Panic Button Just Yet
SAN JOSE — Doug Wilson wasn’t going to win bidding wars with the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames or Anaheim Ducks, Pacific Division rivals who made big splashes at the NHL draft last weekend.
The Flames and Oilers are both overflowing with young talent and can afford to give away draft picks to plug holes in the here and now. The Ducks also had assets to play around with.
The San Jose Sharks, on the other hand, are trying to return to the playoffs with an aging nucleus while simultaneously feeding the pipeline, so a new core can emerge when Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau eventually move on. It’s a daunting challenge, but the Sharks are still in position to add the right pieces for next season via trade or free agency without comprising the organization’s long-term goals.
It’s easy to play armchair general manager and blast the Sharks for sitting idly while the Flames added defenseman Dougie Hamilton, the Oilers traded for goalie Cam Talbot and defenseman Griffin Reinhart and the Anaheim Ducks swung a deal for Carl Hagelin.
The problem is that these trades don’t occur on scrap paper or Twitter, but in a competitive marketplace where multiple teams are capable of driving up prices.
The Flames trade for Hamilton makes perfect sense. With a youthful core, the Flames could afford to see the 2015 draft come and go without adding another a top-notch prospect into the pipeline. The same is true of the trades that the Oilers executed over the weekend.
With Connor McDavid and a slew of former-top five picks, the Oilers had way more flexibility in the trade market than the Sharks. They can allow the next two drafts to pass without adding a first or second-round pick because they have a transcendental talent in McDavid, who will be surrounded by gifted-goal scorers like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Had the Sharks traded for Talbot, they would have thrown away the opportunity to move up in the second round and snag Jeremy Roy with the No. 31 pick. At this point, the Sharks don’t have the organizational depth to allow a draft to come and go without adding a top-blue line prospect into the mix.
And let’s not forget, they’d have given up those picks for an unproven commodity. Talbot has only 57 games of NHL experience under his belt and he was patrolling the blue paint in one the strongest-defensive systems in the NHL.
Talbot could wind up being the missing piece for the Oilers, but it doesn’t mean that the Sharks should have overpaid for his services.
Likewise, trading for Reinhart would have required the Sharks to part ways with at least a future first and second-round pick, a steep price to pay for a blue liner who isn’t expected to validate his selection as the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 draft.
The Flames trade for Hamilton is a little more intriguing. He’s a potential top-pair defenseman and just 22 years old. But acquiring him would have required the Sharks to allow the deepest draft in more than a decade to pass without making a pick in the top two rounds. In essence, the Sharks would have been trading Roy, Timo Meier and another second-round pick for a player who’s believed to have character issues, not an ideal situation for a squad that’s looking to reload with young talent and change the culture in the locker room.
The Hagelin trade wasn’t realistic for the Sharks, either. The Ducks gave up 23-year-old Emerson Etem, who turned heads in the playoffs, for Hagelin, which means the Sharks would have likely needed to have parted ways with Tomas Hertl or Chris Tierney to obtain his services. The trade is easy to execute on paper; negotiating with Glen Sather is an entirely different story.
Instead of wheeling and dealing, Wilson allowed the summer’s first trade bonanza to pass without hitting the panic button, which seems like a smart move considering the market for players, like Talbot, Hamilton and Hagelin last weekend.
By staying patient, the Sharks still have an opportunity to acquire the pieces they need to be competitive next year at a lower price, without mortgaging the future.
Franchise goalies are hard to find. A lot of times, striking gold in the blue paint requires luck.
Jonathan Quick was playing in the ECHL before he emerged as a Conn Smthye trophy-winning netminder. Henrik Lundqvist was drafted in the seventh round. The Nashville Predators selected Pekka Rinne with the 258th overall pick.
Oftentimes, teams cycle through several netminders before they find the right fit. The Minnesota Wild had a glaring hole in the crease last season before they found Devan Dubnyk, a castaway who led them on 27-8-2 run after Jan. 14.
The Sharks didn’t need to waste picks by rolling the dice on Talbot, Robin Lehner or Eddie Lack. They can still acquire a goalie or two over the summer and see who emerges in an open competition with Alex Stalock and Troy Grosenick. It isn’t an ideal situation, but it’s the reality that every team faces when looking for a cornerstone net minder in the NHL.
The hole on the Sharks blue line should be easier to plug. Several veterans — Mike Green, Francois Beauchemin, Johnny Oduya — will be available as unrestricted free agents and the Sharks won’t have to give up valuable draft picks to acquire them.
Trades are another option. Last year, the Islanders acquired Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy just days before the puck dropped on the 2014-15 season by taking advantage of the cap-challenged Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins. By waiting, the Islanders allowed the market to simmer down; they didn’t have to engage in bidding wars with the rest of the league to acquire a pair of top-four defenseman.
Yes, the Sharks have work to do this offseason if they want get back into the playoffs next year. But the fun is just getting started. Let’s see what happens after July 1 before we start writing the team’s obituary.
This column was sponsored by Tilden Park Golf Course. Join the Players’ Club for $39.99 a month. Daily range access. Free green fees. Free golf clinics!