SAN JOSE – Whether Aaron Dell saw a report on Tuesday about the Sharks still searching for a backup goaltender to replace him is uncertain. But even if he did, he would have paid it no mind.
General manager Doug Wilson told the 27-year-old on Monday that his club wasn’t in the market for another goalie ahead of Wednesday’s noon NHL trade deadline. Dell appreciated the heads up.
“There was a lot of talk about us looking for a goalie, and I think that shows a lot of character for him to clear my head of that,” Dell said.
It became official that Dell would be Martin Jones’ backup for the rest of the season after the deadline came and went with the Sharks making no other moves after their Tuesday night acquisition of forward Jannik Hansen.
A first-year pro, Dell has appeared in 12 games this season posting a 7-3-1 record, 1.95 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. While he’s been steady throughout the year, the tone seemed to change after a game in Philadelphia on Feb. 11, when he made 33 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Flyers in which Dell simply stole his club a point in a lackluster performance by his teammates.
“I don’t know what else he could do to show that he’s an NHL caliber goalie,” Pete DeBoer said after the game.
While Dell’s body of work is obviously the biggest reason he’s still here, Wilson recalled that game in Philadelphia in the middle of a four-game-in-six-day road trip when asked when he decided that Dell was going to be his guy.
"There were a couple games. On that road trip, back in Philly,” Wilson said. “He's 27. He's got the respect of his teammates because he's never been given anything and he's had to battle all the way through this.
“I think in that position it's as much about your teammates wanting to play for you. His style of play is very calm, it's very consistent with how Jonesy plays. He's come in and he's taken the opportunity and earned the job. We're very pleased that he did."
The focus now will turn to how much the Sharks use Dell over their final 20 games. Jones has started 52 games, putting him on pace to start approximately 69, which is too much according to many pundits. Only Edmonton’s Cam Talbot has more minutes than Jones (3,047).
The Sharks have a busy March with 16 games, including five back-to-backs. Assuming Dell gets at least one end of those, his workload is about to increase.
That was the hint from DeBoer, anyway.
“Deller is going to play. I think we all feel that we want Jonesy as fresh as possible,” DeBoer said. “At the same time, you’ve got to stay sharp. It’s going to be [fluid], depending on what our sense [is] of where things are at. But, the idea here is that Deller will definitely play a good amount of games going forward.”
Dell was asked if it’s easier to prepare knowing he’s about to see more games.
"I think so. I can start preparing now for that, work on good habits in practice and when the time comes, hopefully I'll be ready to go,” he said. “I'm pretty excited for it."
He deserves that chance, according to the general manager’s words and actions.
“We felt very simply the opportunity was given to Aaron Dell to come in and earn it and he earned it,” Wilson said.