Report: Sharks ramping up trade talks, 'open for business'

Kevin Labanc

Heading into a momentous few weeks, the Sharks reportedly are "open for business."

The Athletic's Kevin Kurz reported Saturday, citing multiple sources, that San Jose has been increasingly active in trade discussions with other teams.

"Names that have been dangled as potential bait include Kevin Labanc, Radim Simek and Dylan Gambrell," Kurz wrote. "The club would prefer to make a so-called 'hockey deal,' a trade that involves established NHL players on both sides, but is also hoping to gain more picks in the upcoming draft."

All three players mentioned by Kurz as potentially heading the other way in a deal make plenty of sense.

Gambrell, 24, is a pending restricted free agent who is coming off arguably the strongest season of his career, but he might be the easiest to replace with depth already in San Jose's system. Simek, 28, has been surpassed on the depth chart by younger, more promising defensemen, and he still has three years remaining on his hefty contract, which the Sharks certainly would prefer to get off their books. If they trade Gambrell and/or Simek, though, the return will not be significant.

Labanc, on the other hand, is a more valuable player, and surely is more coveted around the league. If the Sharks are going to make a significant trade this offseason involving a major piece, it seems likely that Labanc would be involved.

Ever the polarizing player, Labanc disappointed last season, which was the first in a four-year, $18.9 million contract he signed last October. That provided plenty of sticker shock around the NHL, but Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was confident that Labanc would live up to it.


He has not thus far.

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Labanc tallied just 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in 55 games last season, well below the output Wilson expected of him. That said, he won't turn 26 until December, and his advanced analytics generally paint a picture of a better player than his baseline stats do. The Sharks weren't exactly a haven for point production last season -- well, at least not for themselves -- and thus it's easy to see why another team might believe Labanc would return to form with a change of scenery.

With the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and the start of free agency all taking place before the end of the month, the Sharks will undergo plenty of personnel changes over the coming weeks. Given how reportedly active the Sharks have been in the lead-up to those momentous events, it certainly wouldn't be surprising if that included one or more trades involving players currently on San Jose's roster.