If you expected a splash from the Sharks -- let alone any other team other than the Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals -- in the hours leading up to Monday's NHL trade deadline, you probably were a little disappointed once the dust settled.
Only 26 players were traded Monday, making deadline day in 2021 the quietest one this century, according to The Athletic's James Mirtle.
Expecting anything more from the Sharks, or the rest of the league, would've been foolhardy. San Jose's longest contracts contain trade and movement protection that would preclude a deal in normal times, let alone during a global pandemic that has ensured the salary cap will remain flat for the foreseeable future.
Still, the Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson played their hand about as well as could have been reasonably expected. San Jose retained salary in two Stanley Cup contenders' trades, picking up some extra draft capital in the process. The Sharks also made intriguing bets on a pair of players, giving up little more than a pair of players they'd previously signed as free agents.
"A wise man surrounds himself with people much smarter than him, and that's pretty easy for me to do," Wilson joked to reporters in a video conference Monday. "We've got a good group.
"All the staff, [assistant general manager Joe Will], [director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr.], [assistant general manager Tim Burke] and all our scouts participate in everything that we do, especially when we're trying to replenish our system, and add picks and add some young players that everyone's knowledge really adds up to youhaving the ability to make some good decisions."
Wilson and the front office got an early start to the proceedings, dealing backup goaltender Devan Dubnyk to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2021 fifth-round pick and depth defenseman Greg Pateryn on Saturday. The Sharks facilitated a deal between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, retaining 25 percent of Nick Foligno's contract and picking up the Leafs' 2021 fourth-round pick for their troubles.
It was more of the same Monday, as the Sharks retained 25 percent of Mattias Janmark's remaining contract to facilitate a deal with Chicago and the rival Vegas Golden Knights. San Jose parted with minor league defenseman Nick DeSimone in the trade, but picked up a 2022 fifth-round pick.
The Sharks, in desperate need of restocking their farm system, now have eight picks in the 2021 NHL Draft and are back up to seven in 2022. Prior to this weekend, they had just six picks in each draft.
"I think this is where we wanted to get to, especially in the uniqueness of this draft," Wilson said, alluding to prospects' seasons being upended by the pandemic ahead of the 2021 draft. "That's why getting two of those picks in this year's draft was important. We have eight total, probably by the time we get to the draft I wouldn't be surprised if we had 10 picks. A lot of the players who haven't been played or haven't been seen much, [so] I think the ability to get some really good players in those mid-rounds is probably more than it's ever been before."
Wilson also took two interesting flyers Monday, acquiring little-used winger Alexander Barabanov from the Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie prospect Magnus Chrona. The costs -- a player the Sharks wanted to "[give] an opportunity" (forward Antti Suomela) and a depth defenseman they'd signed three months ago (Fredrik Claesson) -- weren't significant, and both acquisitions have intriguing upside.
Barabanov averaged just 8:37 of ice time in 13 games with Toronto, but he scored 46 points in 58 KHL games as recently as two years ago. The 26-year-old could get a chance in the Sharks' bottom six down the stretch, which has featured a bit of a revolving door this season, before he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Chrona turns 21 in August, and he struggled during the pandemic-altered season as a sophomore. Still, he has a .920 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average in two NCAA seasons and appealing size. Denver lists him at 6-foot-5, 207 pounds.
"I think our guys are really excited to work with him," Wilson said of the netminder. "He was born in Sweden, he's come over and done a really good job at Denver. We watched him in the playoffs this year, so the fact that he was available, we thought it was a real good asset to have our goalie coaches work with him."
The Sharks didn't maximize the return for all of their pending unrestricted free agents, with veteran Patrick Marleau, speedy Marcus Sorensen and injured Matt Nieto -- among others -- staying put. San Jose will have additional chances to restock the prospect cupboard, and restock the roster, this summer.
July 21 is the expansion draft, and the 2021 NHL Draft begins two days later. Wilson and the Sharks probably earned a B-plus at the deadline, and San Jose's front office is in a good position to ace the summer.
"Everyone's pretty well aware of the position every team is in," Wilson said. "Teams will have to make decisions. We feel fortunate that we'll have cap space. We've got young players. We will lose a player, just like in the last one when we lost [defenseman] David Schlemko, but we think we're pretty well-positioned to move forward. Not only through building our team, but to potentially take advantage to adding a player who could be available because of the expansion draft."