Sharks

Nash to Sharks doesn't make sense -- right now

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Nash to Sharks doesn't make sense -- right now

RALEIGH Its only natural to fantasize this time of year, with the NHLs trade deadline just 10 days away.

Its a little easier if youre a follower of the San Jose Sharks, too. Columbus superstar Rick Nash is on the market, and its being reported that the Sharks are interested. The feeling is at least somewhat mutual from Nash, who has San Jose on his list of acceptable destinations according to the Columbus Dispatch.

At this point, it seems very unlikely that he will get a chance to line up with his good buddy Joe Thornton for the stretch run and playoffs, in which San Jose will try and put an end to its 20-year Stanley Cup drought.

Heres why.

Put yourself in Columbus general manager Scott Howsons shoes for a moment. If you were trading one of the league's marquee players, and the man that has been the face of your franchise and most popular player for a while now, what would you want in return?

Howson is undoubtedly asking for a kings ransom in exchange for Nash. That includes a current established NHL player and a combination of prospects and draft picks. Its surprising enough that Howson, who has made a multitude of questionable moves for the organization, is even allowed to make this decision in the first place but thats a story for another day.

That being said, if Doug Wilson is on the line, what would you be asking him in return for Nash?

Well, for one, this deal likely wouldnt get done without Joe Pavelski, since hes one of the clubs major offensive threats that doesnt have a no-movement clause. It's doubtful that the Sharks would part ways with their 22-goal scorer that has been piling up goals and assists lately, not to mention that the power play has surged since Pavelski was put back on the point just before the All-Star break. Oh, and Pavelski is one of the NHL's best faceoff men for a team that relies so heavily on puck possession.

Ryane Clowe? With 10 goals and 23 assists thats not sexy enough of a name if youre in Howsons unenviable position of selling the trade to an overtly skeptical fan base. Sharks fans, as well as the coaches and management, know how valuable Clowe is on and off the ice. That wouldn't do it.

Logan Couture is obviously a non-starter.

But the Sharks have goaltending, you say, and thats a position in which the Blue Jackets desperately need help. Steve Mason has been every bit as bad as his numbers suggest (7-20-2 record, 3.40 goals-against average, .887 save percentage), and may be the single biggest reason that Columbus finds itself buried in last place in the league.

Thomas Greiss has been good as an NHL backup that much is true. But the sample size of his performance is just not large enough. Hes 4-0-1 in his last five starts but all of those were against teams not currently in playoff position, including a pair of wins over the Blue Jackets themselves.

Alex Stalock is intriguing, but has to prove he can play after sitting out for a year due to a serious severed nerve injury. Tyson Sexsmith isnt a big enough prospect, despite his AHL All-Star appearance last month.

Theres also the matter of Nashs huge contract. Hes signed through the 2017-18 season at a 7.8 million salary cap hit, and the Sharks already have more than 54 million committed to 14 players next season according to CapGeek.com. The salary cap will probably stay right around the 63-65 million mark next season.

They could fit Nash under the cap this year even if they kept Pavelski and his 4 million salary, but would have to shed some serious dollars next year.

As for draft picks, the Sharks have a first and second round pick, after trading their other second round pick for Dominic Moore. After that, they don't have a third or fourth round pick, and their prospect pool is already viewed as somewhat thin (in fact, the website Hockeysfuture.com has them ranked dead last).

So, where does Nash end up? Smart money right now says the Los Angeles Kings, who can offer goalie Jonathan Bernier and are desperately in need of scoring. The Boston Bruins have Tuukka Rask, while Vancouver Canucks have Cory Schneider, all of whom would have be part of the deal.

Or, maybe Nash stays put in Columbus. Theres no urgency for the Blue Jackets to make the deal, and a trade at the NHL draft in June may give them a better chance to get maximum value as more teams would likely be interested. The Blue Jackets have a number of other commodities on the market like Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette, and they may want to see what they can get for those players while waiting to deal Nash.

If the Sharks have an abbreviated playoff run, though, that could make a major trade with the Blue Jackets a possibility should Nash still be there. Wilson showed last summer hes not afraid to make big time moves to try to try and get his team over the hump, and knows the window is closing for a core group that includes an aging Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.

Right now, though, it just doesnt seem feasible.

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

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USATSI

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

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AP

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.

UP NEXT:

Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.