Sharks

Analysis: Sharks GM Wilson has made the right moves, so far

Analysis: Sharks GM Wilson has made the right moves, so far

SAN JOSE – It’s been a whirlwind few days around the Sharks organization. To quickly recap for those that have been sunbathing, scarfing down hot dogs or sparking up fireworks: Joe Thornton is back for another year, Patrick Marleau is off to Toronto, and crucial pieces Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are locked up long term.

For the 15th straight summer Doug Wilson is overseeing the transition from one year to the next. And so far, he’s looking pretty good.

Marleau’s departure, of course, is the most emotional moment for the fan base since the 2016 Stanley Cup Final – maybe even more so. I get the impression many Sharks supporters would have preferred to keep him around at any cost. Detractors will point to the team’s inability to win a Stanley Cup in the 19 seasons has was on the roster, and his frustrating nature of going extended stretches without having an impact, but my sense is that they are in the minority.

But Wilson offering him anything close to the three-year, $18.75 million contract that Marleau got in Toronto would have been nonsensical. Frankly, the two-year, $10 million offer that was reportedly on the table for Marleau might have been too much for a team that has $52.5 million tied up in contracts for just 11 players in 2018-19 (and Thornton a pending free agent again). 

Wilson may have only tacked on that second year in his attempt to placate Thornton, who was desperately trying to keep Marleau in the dressing room. Frankly, it’s fair to wonder if the organization is a bit relieved that Marleau didn’t take that final two-year offer.

Offering Marleau a third year in 2019-20 at the age of 40 was a deal breaker for Wilson for good reason. Not only will the Sharks have Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones making big money, but Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are both due to be unrestricted. If Tomas Hertl develops into the player the organization still hopes he’ll become, he could be making a pretty penny by then. Mikkel Boedker will potentially still be on the books. Prospects like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc will have expiring entry-level deals, and if they or others in the system become full time NHL’ers, they could be getting big raises, too.

Paying an old, declining winger $5 million or more that season was a risk that Wilson was rightfully not willing to take.

As for Thornton, we predicted here before the NHL draft that Wilson might be making a calculated risk, knowing that Thornton – who originally wanted a three-year deal – was too committed to the area to sign anywhere else. That seems to be how this played out. Thornton’s one-year, $8 million deal is an expensive one, but it still makes sense from a team perspective considering his importance on and off the ice. The Sharks have the cap space to give Thornton that kind of money, and they are also protecting themselves with the one-year term in case Thornton has any problems with his surgically repaired left knee.

And if Thornton comes back strong next season, Wilson now knows for certain that the future Hall of Famer doesn’t want to play anywhere else. Getting Thornton to agree to another one-year deal, if that’s what Wilson wants, shouldn’t be nearly as complicated next time with Marleau already gone.

Don’t overlook, either, how Wilson managed to painlessly extend Jones and Vlasic to contracts that are fair for both sides. Had those contract talks lingered into the season it would have been an unnecessary distraction.

That’s not to say that the general manager should now pack up his bags and go on a two-month vacation until training camp begins. The Sharks still have cap space to add another impact player, and I would argue they should be on the lookout for another forward, probably though a trade now that the free agent market has dried up. I would be surprised if they paid the kind of price that Colorado reportedly is seeking for Matt Duchene, but perhaps others like Vegas’ James Neal or Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk are possibilities.

So far, though, Wilson has made the right moves in what has already been an eventful offseason.

Sharks' return in Brenden Dillon trade leaves something to be desired

Sharks' return in Brenden Dillon trade leaves something to be desired

The wait is over. Brenden Dillon has been traded from the Sharks to the Washington Capitals.

After weeks of being one of the most prominent names mentioned in trade rumors, Dillon got some clarity about his playing career Tuesday when San Jose traded him to the Capitals, who currently sit in first place in the Eastern Conference. In exchange for the rugged defenseman, the Sharks receive the Colorado Avalanche's 2020 second-round draft pick and a conditional 2021 third-round draft pick.

According to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun, San Jose will get the Arizona Coyotes' 2020 third-round draft pick if Dillon and the Capitals go on to win the Stanley Cup this season. In the event they don't, the Sharks instead will get Washington's 2021 third-round draft pick.

So, the Sharks get a second and third-round draft pick for their pending unrestricted free agent. It's just a matter of when that third-rounder is conveyed, and from which team.

LeBrun reported that San Jose had remained consistent with its asking price for Dillon throughout the past week, and apparently, the Capitals were the first to meet it. Two fairly high draft picks for a rental is a pretty sizeable haul for the Sharks, and that return will prove very helpful in reloading their cupboard of assets. That said, it's fair to wonder if San Jose might have been able to get more in return for one of the best defensemen available at the NHL trade deadline.

On TSN's Trade Tracker, Dillon was listed as the No. 4 player overall and No. 2 defenseman on the big board. On The Athletic's NHL Trade Big Board, he was ranked as the No. 7 player overall and the third-highest rated defenseman. On The Fourth Period's Trade Watch List, he was ranked No. 6 and No. 3, respectively. On each and every one of those sites, Dillon was rated considerably higher than Andy Greene, Dylan DeMelo and Marco Scandella, all defensemen who 1) also have been traded within the last 72 hours, 2) are pending unrestricted free agents, and 3) brought back very similar returns.

For the 37-year-old Greene, the New York Islanders traded their 2021 second-round draft pick and prospect David Quenneville to the New Jersey Devils. Dillon not only is eight years younger than Greene, but has been a considerably better performer this season. Dillon's Corsi (47.51) and Fenwick (46.84) percentages -- which calculate the percentage of total and unblocked shot attempts while that player is on the ice for that player's team -- are significantly superior to the elder Greene's (40.35 percent; 41.95 percent). Greene was the Devils' captain, however, and that likely had something to do with New Jersey getting what it did for him.

While DeMelo (26 years old) and Scandella (turns 30 years old Sunday) both are much closer to Dillon's age and measure up better in both Corsi and Fenwick percentages this season, there's no question as to which of the three is the best player. Yet, the Ottawa Senators fetched a 2020 third-round draft pick from the Winnipeg Jets for DeMelo, and the Montreal Canadiens got a 2020 second-round and 2021 conditional fourth-round pick from the St. Louis Blues for Scandella -- whom Montreal traded a 2020 fourth-round draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres to acquire last month.

While Dillon's annual cap hit ($3.27 million) is considerably more expensive than DeMelo's ($900,000), it's actually cheaper than both Scandella's ($4 million) and Greene's ($5 million). When you consider San Jose retained 50 percent of Dillon's cap hit in the deal with Washington -- meaning the Capitals are taking on only $735,000 more salary against the cap for Dillon than the Jets are for DeMelo -- it begs the question as to if the Sharks maximized value in their return.

[RELATED: Report: Execs believe Jumbo trade to Bruins or Avs fits]

Don't get me wrong. The draft picks are very much needed, and certainly more useful to San Jose's future than Dillon will be, as re-signing the defenseman on the open market remains a long shot. The Sharks need to get whatever they can for players that will be of more use to them elsewhere, and the fact that Dillon wasn't traded until Tuesday after weeks (months?) of speculation could lead one to believe that a better offer wasn't available, nor was there going to be one. Still, given what some other teams got in return for worse defensemen, it leaves something to be desired.

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way this Monday at 11:30am on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the Noon deadline? Don’t miss it!

NHL rumors: Execs believe Joe Thornton trade to Bruins, Avalanche fits

NHL rumors: Execs believe Joe Thornton trade to Bruins, Avalanche fits

The Sharks already have begun wheeling and dealing ahead of the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline. 

San Jose traded defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday for a 2020 second-round draft pick (Colorado's previously acquired by Washington) and a third-round draft pick in either 2020 or 2021. And Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is expected to stay busy before the deadline. 

The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported Sunday that "the belief is Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has put up the “For Sale” sign and is trying to move as many pieces as possible before the deadline." All eyes now are on a franchise icon. 

Will the Sharks trade Joe Thornton to give him a better chance at finally winning a championship? It sounds like they might be leaning that way. 

"He has a full 'no move' clause, but the Sharks would like to give him the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup," Garrioch wrote. "If he’s going to be dealt, then league executives believe he’ll only go to a team that has a chance to win, so the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins are both viewed as good fits." 

The Bruins (37-11-12) lead the NHL in points (86) and are the top team in Eastern Conference. The Avalanche (33-18-7) are third in the Western Conference with 73 points. 

Thornton, 40, spent his first seven-and-a-half seasons with the Bruins before the Sharks acquired him from Boston in November 2005. He won both the Art Ross Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy that season. 

The center has scored 25 points -- two goals and 23 points -- over 59 games this season. Thornton is the active leader in points with 1,503 and currently ranks 14th in NHL history in that category. 

[RELATED: How Sharks can benefit from injuries at NHL trade deadline]

The Sharks (26-29-4) have the third-worst record in the Western Conference. It would be no surprise if they have more moves to come, but would San Jose really trade its all-time assists leader in what possibly could his final season in the NHL?

With less than a week to go before the trade deadline, there will be plenty of attention on Wilson and what he does with a legend in San Jose.

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way this Monday at 11:30am on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the Noon deadline? Don’t miss it!