Just over six weeks before the NHL trade deadline, the Sharks are playing their best hockey of the season.
San Jose entered Wednesday's game against the Arizona Coyotes riding a season-high seven-game winning streak, and has won 16 of its last 21 games. Since Dec. 2, the day the team met with general manager Doug Wilson following a blowout loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators, the Sharks have the NHL's second-best record (behind the Tampa Bay Lightning) and are the league's best 5-on-5 puck-possession team (55.86 percent corsi-for, 55.76 percent fenwick-for per Natural Stat Trick).
That leaves Wilson with a tightrope to walk ahead of the deadline.
"The things that you identify that successful teams have, we're trending in the right direction," Wilson told NHL.com's Nick Costonika. "We feel good about it. But if there's a way that we can add a piece that fits ... Sometimes you add a piece that doesn't fit, or you get a guy that has got to be accepting of his role.
"You've got to balance your needs, the integration time and truly what your own group is doing, the dynamic and chemistry of our group, which is really a pretty special group."
Wilson told reporters last week that the Sharks would be willing to add players on expiring contracts for the stretch run, without necessarily intending to re-sign those players this summer. All-Stars Erik Karlsson and Joe Pavelski are among the Sharks who can become unrestricted free agents, while Timo Meier is set to hit restricted free agency for the first time.
As of this writing, the Sharks would have around $5.1 million in salary cap space at the trade deadline, according to Cap Friendly. They are without first-round draft picks this year or next because of the Karlsson and Evander Kane trades, and could be without one in 2021 if the Sharks sign Karlsson to an extension and they make the Stanley Cup Final this June.
Wilson told Costonika there are other factors to consider, too.
"A big part of trade deadline is integrating players. We only have 19 games after the trade deadline," Wilson said. "So historically we'll identify what it is we might need, what ingredient we might need, and then factor in, 'Can we get them, what's the cost and what is the integration time?' So, there is a process that we follow."
A lot can change between now and Feb. 26. Including Wednesday, the Sharks will play 11 of 15 games on the road. San Jose will wrap up a four-game road trip in Boston the day of the deadline, but just six road games remain on the schedule after that.
At the moment, though, Wilson said there's a lot to like about how his team his playing.
"Right now, if you look at a lot of the indicators, we're getting a lot out of a lot of people, meaning different ways," Wilson said. "We think we've got better hockey ahead of us. But we like our goaltending. We like our defense. I think we have four lines. We're getting a lot of secondary scoring. We're getting guys that are having good years. A few guys are saying, 'Well, I can be even better.' Yeah, you can. Then you just want to get playing the right way."