The Sharks were one of the more active teams at Monday's NHL trade deadline, as San Jose was involved in four separate transactions, three of which carried the same general theme: Sacrificing the present for the good of the future.
Defenseman Brenden Dillon and forwards Patrick Marleau and Barclay Goodrow were traded to the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively, each in exchange for draft picks. Of those three players, only Goodrow was signed beyond the current season, meaning Sharks general manager Doug Wilson did well to turn multiple short-term assets into ones better suited for the long run.
Still, it wasn't easy to see so much leadership head out the door.
"We made some tough decisions," Wilson said after Monday's deadline. "We made some decisions to add some pieces that we think can be some great assets for us to make some decisions going forward to be consistent with what I said, which is getting us back on track next September. Some tough decisions with some really quality people that have meant a lot to this organization."
"We made some tough decisions to add some pieces that we think can be great assets for us to make decisions going forward and getting back on track next September." #SJSharks GM Doug Wilson addresses the media after the trade deadline. pic.twitter.com/0aXX1vDDf2— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) February 24, 2020
Much like the Dillon trade, San Jose's decision to send Marleau to the Penguins in exchange for a conditional 2021 third-round draft pick didn't exactly come out of left field. As a quality veteran in search of the elusive Stanley Cup, he always was going to have a better chance of succeeding in that endeavor with another team, and the Sharks worked with Marleau to make that happen.
"You always treat, especially, iconic players with the tremendous class that they deserve," Wilson said. "Patty was included in the process, and I left it up to him, what he wanted to do and what he wanted to explore. ... He made a decision that I fully supported, and all I can say is, what he has brought to the organization over the years continues, and we wish him nothing but the best. He's a Shark. Always will be a Shark."
Joe Thornton was in a nearly identical situation as Marleau, a 40-year-old pending unrestricted free agent with a Stanley Cup-sized hole on his career résumé. However, unlike Marleau, San Jose wasn't presented with an offer from a team that could convince Thornton to waive his no-movement clause.
"I don't share the conversations that I have with other GMs, but Jumbo was very involved in the process and was willing to explore it," Wilson said of Thornton. "Ultimately, it didn't come to fruition, and we reap the benefits of him staying here, because the young players that are here get to be around him every day.
"I think he was open to exploring it," Wilson added, "but I'm not sure he necessarily wanted to go completely, either. That's how loyal he has been to this organization, and that's what makes him special, too. "
Goodrow had no such clause in his contract, and thus didn't have any say about the trade that sent him and the Philadelphia Flyers' 2020 third-round draft pick to the Lightning in exchange for Tampa Bay's 2020 first-round pick. That was a haul Wilson couldn't pass up, but it also was a bittersweet exchange.
"Obviously, we're pleased with the return," Wilson explained, "but we gave up a player that epitomizes our development system. [Goodrow] came here as an undrafted free agent, went up and down in the minors. We've got a bunch of guys now that we think will follow the same journey that Barclay made, but Barclay is a special guy. Nothing was given to him. ... A great example of fortitude and commitment and work, becoming so versatile that teams that are trying to win the Cup wanted him badly."
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The Sharks had every reason to be sellers at the deadline, given their season is not headed to the playoffs. Still, the trades have further depleted what already was a ravaged San Jose roster, and the Sharks didn't acquire any new players that one automatically would assume will be a part of the franchise's core moving forward.
Wilson knows what has been a tough season thus far only likely will get tougher, but he's optimistic about the possibilities.
"This is a year that our main focus is playing the right way," Wilson summarized. "We have a depleted lineup right now. We've got some guys that just went out, we've got some key players that are injured. You can't control those things, but with that comes the opportunity for younger guys to really step in and say, 'Hey, look what we can do,' and hopefully they can be ready come September also to take a full-time spot, just like Barclay Goodrow did.
"We feel very comfortable that we have some people in the system that can step into that, but it takes work, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us."