The upcoming NHL trade deadline and Raffi Torres’ future are among the topics we tackle in the latest Sharks mailbag…
Should we expect to see Raffi Torres back in San Jose at some point this season? Who loses their spot in the lineup? #SharksTalk (@DavidW182)
Now that Torres has cleared waivers and been reassigned to the Barracuda, I would only recall him if he shows he’s able to play effectively for at least a couple weeks in the AHL without having to come out of the lineup. He still needs to prove to the organization and to himself that he can keep up on a game-by-game basis. But even if that happens, it still may not make sense. Torres hasn't played in about two years, so there's no telling what they would be getting - healthy or not - over the next 10 weeks.
Keep in mind, too, that the Sharks were able to gain some much-needed salary cap space by waiving and reassigning both Torres and Ben Smith. According to generalfanager.com, San Jose is approximately $3.43 million under the limit at present. That's huge as the Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline approaches.
In my opinion, the team could use another depth forward with players like Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson underperforming. A healthy and effective Torres would have been a great piece, and he still could be. If I’m in the Sharks’ front office, though, I would explore other options via the trade market before I recall Torres and run the risk of him not being able to stay in the lineup. If the deadline comes and goes and the forward group remains unchanged, perhaps then they can see what they still have in the controversial 34-year-old winger.
What is the Sharks' biggest need heading to the trade deadline? #SharksTalk (Matthew McGuirk @matt_mcguirk_90)
Still need to shore up the depth on D. Thoughts on options? (Brian Curtis)
I’ll combine these two questions, because as much as I think the Sharks could use another left wing (and a more reliable backup goalie), adding a depth defenseman should be at the top of their list.
I don’t think it’s a secret that the Sharks simply can’t afford a key injury on their blue line among the top five. Yes, I’m sure that’s true with a number of teams around the league, but it’s especially true with the Sharks.
One trait they could use back there is a little more physicality, because other than Brenden Dillon (and Tommy Wingels and Mike Brown up front), that’s lacking on this roster. For example, early in the Ducks game on Tuesday and without Brown in the lineup, I thought Anaheim had a pretty distinct advantage in that department. That will only get magnified in a potential playoff series.
Having said that, how about taking a look at defenseman Roman Polak in Toronto? The 29-year-old is a right-handed shot, so he could slot in with the lefty Dillon on the third pair. He’s a big, bruising player at six-foot-one, 225 pounds that finishes his checks and isn't afraid to jump into scrums, and this year he’s even been contributing offensively with 12 points (1g, 11a) in 47 games and a team-leading plus-10 rating. A pending unrestricted free agent, Polak carries a manageable $2.75 million salary cap hit, too.
Odds [Patrick] Marleau is traded before the deadline? (Joshua Neditch)
My gut instinct is that this is still more likely to happen in the offseason, and with the way the Sharks have been playing for the past month and how their lines are set up since Logan Couture’s return, I’m not sure why they would even want to deal Marleau unless they get equal value in return. That’s the complicated part of any potential Marleau deal - a contending team that would want him (and that he would agree to join) would have to be willing to surrender a key piece to their current squad.
Furthermore, Marleau hasn’t exactly been lighting it up lately. He’s gone 14 games without a goal in a manned net (with five assists), and with a $6.67 million salary cap hit this year and next, that’s a lot for another team to take on for a 36-year-old whose best years are seemingly in the rearview mirror.
What are the chances Mike Brown will be next year's version of the All-Star "John Scott story"? (Angel @Sharks_Division)
Zero. The league has already hinted at changes in the All-Star voting process for next season so as to avoid any more Scott-type situations. As great as that whole episode turned out, it ain't gonna happen again.