The Sharks are on a roll a week before the 2021 NHL trade deadline.
San Jose has won four games in a row, and six of the last eight, to move within three points of the West Division's fourth and final playoff spot. That shouldn't necessarily change general manager Doug Wilson's approach leading up to the noon PT deadline on April 12.
Wilson said last month the Sharks won't trade their 2021 first-rounder, desiring instead to replenish their farm system at the NHL draft and to give young players opportunities during the season. The GM was frank about San Jose's long odds of contending for a Stanley Cup this season, and the Sharks' winning streak probably isn't enough to sway him.
Considering the Sharks have won more games (nine) against the seventh-place Los Angeles Kings and last-place Anaheim Ducks than against the rest of the division combined, the San Jose isn't exactly a Taylor Hall trade away from competing with the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights. Wilson's priority should still be acquiring picks and/or prospects, and he should explore any way he can do so over the next week.
With that in mind, here are the Sharks' most appealing assets leading up to the April 12 NHL trade deadline.
5. Devan Dubnyk
The Sharks acquired Dubnyk to push goaltender Martin Jones, and he did earlier this season. Dubnyk posted a .908 save percentage in his first 14 games, which is right around league-average this season, according to Hockey-Reference. The 34-year-old’s last four starts haven’t gone nearly as well, with Dubnyk posting a .882 save percentage during that time.
Still, Dubnyk has loads of experience, and the veteran could be appealing to a contender looking to solidify their depth in the crease. The Sharks should have the space to retain some of his salary, potentially enabling them to recoup a seventh-rounder in next year’s draft.
San Jose traded a 2022 seventh to acquire Dubnyk in the first place.
4. Marcus Sorensen
A speedy bottom-six winger who can play on the penalty kill and move up and down the lineup in a pinch, the 28-year-old would check a lot of boxes for contenders looking to add depth. Although Sorensen has only scored four points (one goal and three assists) this season, he’s only two seasons removed from scoring 17 goals. Plus, Sorensen’s expiring $1.5 million contract shouldn’t be too difficult for an interested team to fit under the cap.
Considering the Sharks signed Sorensen as a free agent in 2016, getting even a late-round pick would represent a nice bit of business. His expiring deal and lack of production, though, should temper expectations for the return the Sharks can fetch.
3. Matt Nieto
Nieto is a more appealing version of Sorensen. He’s cheaper ($700,000 cap hit), plays a bigger role on the penalty kill and has had a much more productive season (five goals and two assists in 28 games) than Sorensen. But coach Bob Boughner said last week the Long Beach native sustained a setback in his recovery from his lower-body injury, placing his potential trade availability in doubt.
If Nieto’s healthy, though, he’d be a compelling, affordable depth option for a lot of teams. The Sharks won’t be able to trade him for a Barclay Goodrow-esque return, but getting any pick for a player they signed to a minimum contract over the summer has to be considered a plus.
2. Salary cap space
The fine folks at Cap Friendly project that the Sharks will have a little over $10 million in salary cap space at the deadline. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported last week that San Jose is open to "renting out" some of it in exchange for a draft pick.
There are quite a few teams with limited room to maneuver under the salary cap, and the cap remaining flat for the foreseeable future further plays into Wilson’s hands. Could the Sharks take on a larger contract in exchange for a prospect? That feels more like an offseason move, specifically prior to the Expansion Draft, but that’s the kind of deal San Jose should pursue in order to improve its pipeline of young talent.
1. Tomas Hertl
I don’t think the Sharks are going to trade Hertl, nor did I think they would prior to the recent push up the standings. But Wilson has to ask himself whether or not the 27-year-old’s timeline aligns with San Jose’s path back to contention, and Hertl will ask himself that in the summer of 2022, when the Sharks risk losing him for nothing.
Hertl is signed through then at a reasonable price ($5.625 million per year), and he’s going to cost more than that on his next contract. The Sharks got a first-rounder for trading Goodrow while he still had term last year, and they should be able to receive a much larger package for Hertl. The 27-year-old has 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 31 games this season.
Given the years and money committed to so many of their veterans, it’ll be a while before the Sharks have the opportunity to trade a player of Hertl’s caliber for a strong return. Hertl is San Jose’s heart and soul, however, and Wilson likely envisions the power forward as part of the Sharks’ core beyond this year’s “reset.” The Sharks could conceivably trade Hertl in 2022 if they’re again on the periphery of the playoffs next season, but they might not receive as much as they could later this month.