The Sharks had a strong start to trade season Saturday, sending veteran goaltender Devan Dubnyk to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick and depth defenseman Greg Pateryn. San Jose first acquired Dubnyk (and a 2022 seventh-rounder) in exchange for a fifth-round pick next year, so the Sharks practically recouped the goaltender's acquisition cost.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson should keep selling, as well as utilize San Jose’s salary cap space to accumulate draft picks, prospects or, even, younger players for taking on contracts contenders want to shed ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline. Doing so, as well as trading pending unrestricted free agents, could enable Wilson to add some quality pieces as he continues to “reset” the Sharks’ roster.
Here, then, are five players and contracts Wilson should have his eyes on going into Monday.
Chris Driedger, Florida Panthers G
The Florida Panthers have Sergei Bobrovsky under contract through 2026, while top goaltending prospect Spencer Knight waits in the wings. Martin Jones is playing his best hockey in (at least) three years, but the Sharks would be foolish to enter the 2021-22 season relying solely on Jones after a solid 15-game stretch in the middle of an abnormal season. Could Driedger be a fit?
He’s a pending unrestricted free agent who steadied the Panthers earlier in the season, but he appears to be Bobrovsky’s “1B” at this point. By trading for Driedger, the Sharks could evaluate him down the stretch before potentially rolling with a Jones-Driedger platoon next season. While that would inhibit San Jose's ability to evaluate its young goaltenders, neither Josef Korenar nor Alexei Melnichuk is close to unrestricted free agency, and both could probably use more time in the minors.
While Driedger would make some sense in San Jose, a deal doesn’t necessarily make sense with Florida. The Ice Cats need a defenseman following Aaron Ekblad’s injury, and it’s hard to imagine the Panthers swinging a deal for any of the Sharks’ aging blueliners. Wilson would be wise to at least call, but Florida counterpart Bill Zito might not be on the other line for very long.
Fifty percent of Taylor Hall’s contract
The Buffalo Sabres almost certainly aren’t keeping Taylor Hall, nor do they have enough space under the salary cap to retain a significant amount of the winger’s $8 million cap hit. That’s where the Sharks come in, greasing the wheels on a deal for the deadline’s big fish.
San Jose could do a contender a solid by retaining up to $4 million of Hall’s cap hit, with Cap Friendly projecting the Sharks to have just over $10.2 million in cap space ahead of the deadline. The Vegas Golden Knights got a fourth-round draft pick (and Ryan Reaves) for retaining 40 percent of Derrick Brassard’s salary in a similar deal three years ago, while the Toronto Maple Leafs picked up a fifth-rounder for retaining some of Robin Lehner’s contract so Chicago could flip him to Vegas.
Wilson probably won’t land much more than a mid-round pick or a low-level prospect, but getting creative with his cap space for the rest of the season is worth that modest return.
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins LW
The embattled Boston Bruins winger has been the subject of trade speculation all season, during which the 24-year-old has struggled. After scoring at least 16 goals and 35 points in each of his first three seasons, DeBrusk has just four and eight in 25 games this season.
The Sharks have had success with a former Bruins winger in need of a fresh start, as Ryan Donato is only six points off matching his career-high total during the middle of this shortened season. DeBrusk, like Donato, is a restricted free agent when his contract expires, which would be an asset moving forward under a flat salary cap.
San Jose can’t offer Boston an upgrade on the wing, unless one of the Sharks’ wingers is made available, so Wilson’s opportunity to add DeBrusk would be in a three-team deal, perhaps one in which he retains additional salary aside from DeBrusk’s. The winger’s the kind of player the Sharks should be rolling the dice on at this point.
Jake Bean or Haydn Fleury, Carolina Hurricanes D
The Carolina Hurricanes are loaded, in no small part because they’re loaded on the back end. That’s hugely important as the franchise aims to win its first Stanley Cup since 2006, but it will present a major dilemma ahead of the Expansion Draft this summer.
Chances are Carolina would have to expose (at least) one of these two defensemen, neither of whom is older than 25. Bean and Fleury are bottom-pair defensemen with the Hurricanes, but does Carolina really want to lose either player for free this summer, let alone have to send draft capital to the Seattle Kraken in order to keep them?
There could be an opportunity for Wilson to strike, especially since the ‘Canes have 21-year-old Joey Keane waiting in the wings. Thanks to Mario Ferraro and Nikolai Knyzhov not needing expansion protection, the Sharks have a little bit more wiggle room along the blue line than you might otherwise think, especially if they opt to protect eight skaters regardless of position. Wilson would be wise to inquire about Bean and Fleury, especially if Hurricanes GM Don Waddell has an early eye on his summer dilemmas.