Silly season begins now in the National Hockey League, with less than four weeks before the trade deadline and half the teams still unsure if they are buyers or sellers.
This internal debate does not concern you, for your team, the San Jose Sharks, are buyers. They have to be, because any reasoned analysis of them as they are and what they should be to be a Stanley Cup contender indicates a significant gap.
In short, Doug Wilson has to do some deals, and not the Ben Eager spackle-and-paint jobs of the last few years. In fact, he needs to hit either a home run or a couple of multiple-RBI doubles to get the Sharks to the place where they can look at Chicago, Vancouver and Detroit square in the eye, let alone Boston or the New York Rangers.
But in doing so, one must identify the sellers, and there arent that many committed sellers yet, so inventory is not yet where it will be by February 27. To know the sellers, you must consult the Imperative of 96 chart.
Ninety-six is the magic number to get into the playoffs; no team has ever reached 96 and missed the postseason, and the closest anyone ever has is 2007, when Colorado finished with 95. San Jose in on pace to finish with 106, with the sixth-best absolute record, and Minnesota, currently eighth, is on pace to finish with 90.
So you go to the chart below, to see what teams have to perform superhuman feats to get to 96, and go from there.
Team Games Remaining Record Points Detroit 31 34-16-1 69 Vancouver 32 31-15-4 66 Sharks 34 28-14-6 62 Nashville 31 31-16-4 66 St. Louis 33 29-13-7 65 Chicago 31 29-15-7 65 Los Angeles 31 25-16-10 60 Minnesota 32 24-19-7 55 Dallas 33 26-21-2 54 Colorado 30 26-24-2 54 Calgary 31 23-22-6 52 Phoenix 31 22-21-8 52 Anaheim 32 19-24-7 45 Edmonton 32 19-26-5 43 Columbus 31 13-32-6 32
NY Rangers 33 32-12-5 69 Boston 34 32-14-2 66 Florida 33 23-15-11 57 Philadelphia 33 29-14-6 64 Pittsburgh 31 29-18-4 62 Ottawa 29 27-20-6 60 Toronto 31 26-19-6 58 New Jersey 33 27-19-3 57 Washington 32 26-20-4 56 Winnipeg 31 23-22-6 52 Tampa Bay 33 22-23-4 48 Buffalo 31 21-25-6 48 NY Islanders 33 20-22-7 47 Montreal 32 19-22-9 47 Carolina 30 18-25-9 45
In fact, what you see is that the Imperative of 96 almost doesnt apply that youre really looking at an imperative of closer to 92. Still, you can see that for some teams, such an achievement will almost certainly be beyond their gifts.
In the East, that means Winnipeg and below, even if the number to reach really is 92. In the West, even Minnesota should be out of the playoffs by typical Western standards, but the Wild and Dallas Stars are probably still in play, this taking appealing confections like Brenden Morrow temporarily off the shelf.
In two weeks, though, that may well change, and at that point general managers talking to coaches and other general managers become general managers talking to owners about the hard cost of buying or selling.
And thats when you can narrow the list of candidates.
Next, you have to think of what the Sharks need most, and that is clearly second- and third-line scoring help. That Jamie McGinn didn't become the fourth Shark to reach double-digits in goals until January 31 is typically the mark of a poor team. The Sharks are not that (and McGinn gets full marks for being that guy, given his previous career arc), so this is clearly the need, barring further injury.
Then you have to go down the list of scoring wingers with consumable or rental contracts, and you may as well shoot high -- like Corey Perry of Anaheim (1 year after this at 4.875M), Derek Roy of Buffalo (1 year, 5.5M), Morrow of Dallas (if it gets to that, 1 year at 4.1M), Joe Thornton's pal Ales Hemsky of Edmonton (unrestricted free agent) Patrik Elias (1 year, 5M) and Zach Parise of New Jersey (UFA), Jarome Iginla of Calgary (1 year, 7M) or Shane Doan of Phoenix (UFA). All those, though, come with considerable baggage for their old teams, and they would want an enormous price in exchange.
Of the 10 core Sharks, the one that Doug Wilson would have to put in such a deal is almost certainly Joe Pavelski, because you can't put Thomas Greiss, Jason Demers and two draft picks and pile them high enough to make any of the above five. Perry, if you could get him, would probably take all that plus Pavelski, which makes him cost-prohibitive, if he were available at all.
Plus, you're working against other teams that have more pieces to offer, so the price for any of those would be necessarily higher in any kind of bidding war. Plus, each of them has their own kind of baggage -- Doan, for example, wants to stay in Phoenix and would only consider a deal if the Coyotes were sure to move back to Canada, which can't be known until the summer, and Iginla, Morrow and Elias are among those with either limited or full no-trade or no-movement contracts. Those can be waived, but it typically means paying the player to waive the clause.
So if you're dead-set on keeping Pavelski, you're looking at the second-level scorer or veteran presence that will allow you to maintain your core. Tuomo Ruutu of Minnesota comes to mind, as do Milan Hejduk of Colorado, Vinny Prospal of Columbus, Michael Ryder of Dallas, Ryan Smyth of Edmonton, Andrei Kostitsyn of Montreal, Ray Whitney of Phoenix, Dominic Moore of Tampa Bay or Andrew Ladd of Winnipeg. Hejduk, Smyth, Whitney and Ladd also have various no-trade clauses to navigate.
Me, I'd get Wilson and Joe Nieuwendyk, the Dallas GM, liquored up (a prodigious financial feat in and of itself) and aim high, for Loui Eriksson, knowing I'd probably have to be willing to settle for Morrow and his concussion issue. If I were Wilson, even an inebriated one, I'd probably decide Iginla was too pricey in terms of what you'd have to lose, Parise's injury history would be a concern for the cost, and the Ducks would never deal Perry within their division and probably not their conference.
And no, Jeff Carter is completely off the board, because he has 10 years left at 5.272M per, plus a full no-trade through 2015 and a modified one until 2022. That's not a contract, that's a Turkish prison sentence.
Anyway, that's your guide for the moment. The names will change, but the dynamics won't. The Sharks' window with the ThorntonMarleauBoyle class is going to start closing after this, so February is going to be a huge month in the life of the franchise. Fortunately for San Jose's interests,. Wilson has plenty of cellphone life, and tequila, to make something big happen, because small isn't going to get it done.