Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 loss to league-best Lightning

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 loss to league-best Lightning

It was another fast-paced game between the Sharks and the Lightning on Saturday night in Tampa Bay. But despite Evander Kane scoring two goals, this game didn’t go San Jose's way.

The Sharks put up a strong effort for the bulk of the contest but were defeated by Steven Stamkos and the NHL-leading Bolts 6-3.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

You shouldn’t point the finger at Martin Jones

Jones gave the Sharks another effort worthy of a win, picking up right where he left off Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was particularly impressive when he froze both Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat on one shift in the first frame, then halted Nikita Kucherov during a second-period penalty kill.

Had Jones not been on his A-game right from the start of the contest, Tampa Bay might have tallied more than two goals in the first period before San Jose found the back of the net. Unfortunately for Jones, he didn’t have quite enough help in front of him to hold off the Bolts as they capitalized on some of the Sharks’ mistakes in the second and third periods. 

Special teams ended up having a big impact

You could tell early in the game that special teams would end up playing a big role.

Even though Tampa Bay scored two quick goals, San Jose had the edge in shots, and began getting more offensive zone time as the game progressed. If anything was going to give either team an extra boost, it was the special teams.

The Sharks' power play helped get them on the board before the first frame expired -- a beautiful sequence between Joe Thornton and Timo Meier to set up Kane. But the Bolts also benefited from the power play, scoring their fourth and sixth goals of the evening on the man advantage as San Jose started getting into penalty trouble. 

Impact of Karlsson’s absence

You have to hand it to San Jose for pushing the tempo despite Erik Karlsson’s sudden absence. They continued to get good offensive zone time and put pucks on net despite Andrei Vasilevkiy standing tall between the pipes for Tampa Bay.

As of game time, there was no news on what exactly Karlsson’s ailment is. While San Jose of course wants its star defenseman back in the lineup to help the team win games, it also isn’t going to want to push Karlsson and injure him even further.

With the All-Star break and bye week coming up, giving Karlsson enough time to heal could benefit the Sharks in the long run.

NHL rumors: Sharks, Ducks discussing trade for goaltender Ryan Miller

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USATSI

NHL rumors: Sharks, Ducks discussing trade for goaltender Ryan Miller

The NHL trade deadline is rapidly approaching. There's already been some movement on the Sharks' front, and it appears more may be coming down the pipe.

According to John Hoven of Mayor's Manor, the Sharks and Ducks are involved in trade discussions surrounding Anaheim goaltender Ryan Miller.

The Sharks (35-17-8) possess the second-best record in the Western Conference, sitting a single point behind Calgary, but goaltending is a potential area of improvement. San Jose ranks dead-last in 5-on-5 save percentage (.897) per Natural Stat Trick, while Aaron Dell (.907) and Martin Jones (.881) rank 55th and 67th among the 68 goalies who played 500 minutes at full strength this season.

Miller has posted a 6-2-1 record with a 2.39 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 12 games in a backup role for the Ducks this season. He's appeared in 57 career playoff games, considerably more than both Jones and Dell combined (44 games).

[RELATED: Here's what Sharks fans need to know before trade deadline]

The Sharks aren't exactly loaded with assets to send the other way in a potential trade, but if it costs San Jose just a third-round pick as Hoven suggests, perhaps they'd find that palatable.

In any case, it appears as if the Sharks aren't entirely comfortable with their current goaltending situation.

NHL trade deadline: What Sharks fans need to know before February 25

NHL trade deadline: What Sharks fans need to know before February 25

We’re five days away from the NHL Trade Deadline, and the silly season is underway. 

Teams are already sitting possible trade targets, seemingly to avoid risking injury. Well, unless you’re asking John Tortorella, that is.

With Monday’s noon PT deadline right around the corner, what are the Sharks in position to do? Who are the best players available? We set out to break it all down, FAQ-style.

When is the NHL trade deadline?

Monday, Feb. 25 at noon PT. Did you read the previous paragraph?

No comment on that one. So, what’s the Sharks’ salary-cap situation?

Before claiming enforcer Micheal Haley off waivers Wednesday, San Jose was projected to have just under $5.4 million ($5,374,870, to be exact) in cap space on at the deadline, according to CapFriendly. 

That projection shouldn’t change much, however. Haley’s cap hit is $100,000 lower than rookie center Dylan Gambrell, who was sent down to the Barracuda on Wednesday to make room for Haley.

How does that compare to other Western Conference contenders?

As it stands right now, the Sharks would have less cap space ahead of the deadline than the team they’re chasing (Calgary Flames) and the teams chasing them (Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, and Vegas Golden Knights). 

There’s still space to add a player, but San Jose doesn’t have the cap room or assets to compete with its peers for some of the bigger fish. 

Speaking of assets, what picks do the Sharks have?

Great segue, nebulous question-asker! 

Here are the picks San Jose has in each of the next three years, with a round-by-round breakdown as things stand right now.

2019: Five (second round, third round, fifth round, sixth round, seventh round)
2020: Five (second round, third round, fourth round, two in fifth round)
2021: Seven (first round, second round, third round, fourth round, fifth round, sixth round, seventh round)

The Sharks’ first two picks in 2021 are in flux, depending upon what happens with Erik Karlsson. If the defenseman is re-signed, the Ottawa Senators receive San Jose’s second-round pick. Should the Sharks make to the Stanley Cup Final, that pick becomes a first-rounder. 

What other trade chips can they work with?

Kevin Labanc has been mentioned as a trade possibility, and has heated up offensively in February alongside Joe Thornton on the third line. Gambrell has become San Jose’s preferred forward to call-up over the last month, but it’s worth noting that former prospects Nikolay Goldobin and Danny O’Regan were on the NHL roster in February before being traded in 2017 and 2018, respectively. 

Fellow rookie centers Rourke Chartier and Antti Suomela have not suited up with the Sharks since November and December, respectively. They’ve become mainstays with the Barracuda in the AHL, and are the only Barracuda players to suit up in the NHL this season other than Gambrell and defenseman Jacob Middleton.

As for who won’t be traded, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on Tuesday that the Sharks are shooing away teams asking about forward Sasha Chmelevski. Chmelevski starred for the United States at the World Juniors, and has 65 points in 46 games with the Ottawa 67s. It’s also hard to imagine San Jose parting with 2018 first-round pick Ryan Merkley.

Where might the Sharks try to improve?

San Jose reportedly is looking to make a move up front. Nine Sharks forwards have scored at least 10 goals, and the Sharks’ top three lines have found a groove lately. But coach Peter DeBoer continues to rotate options on the fourth line, and Friedman also reported on Tuesday that the Sharks “will try to add a winger.”

How about in net? 

It’s a fair question. San Jose ranks dead-last in 5-on-5 save percentage (.897) per Natural Stat Trick, while Aaron Dell (.907) and Martin Jones (.881) are 55th and 67th among the 68 goalies who played 500 minutes at full strength this season. 

The Sharks aren’t committed to Dell beyond next season, but Jones is the franchise goalie playing in the first of a five-year extension he signed two summers ago.

While a trade for a netminder seems unlikely, it was reported on Thursday that the Sharks are talking to the Ducks about Ryan Miller.

We shall see ... 

Let’s say they make a move elsewhere. Who are the names to know? 

Without a first-round pick, the Sharks probably won’t be in contention for bigger names like Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin. Friedman reported on Tuesday that the Sharks “have checked in” or are “looking at” a trio of pending free-agent wingers from the Metropolitan Division: Marcus Johansson, Wayne Simmonds and Mats Zuccarello. 

Johansson is the youngest of the bunch (28 years old), and the New Jersey Devil is generating 5-on-5 attempts, shots and chances at career-high rates, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

Simmonds has struggled working his way back from offseason surgeries. But, the Philadelphia Flyers winger on pace to score 20 goals for the seventh straight season. 

Zuccarello continues to drive play in a positive direction, and the diminuitive New York Rangers fan favorite is picking up primary assists at full strength at the highest rate of his career. 

Friedman also floated out a reunion with Minnesota Wild center Eric Fehr as a possibility. Fehr was a key cog in the Sharks’ fourth line last postseason. 

[RELATED: Sharks looking to cut down trips to penalty box]

Who are some other available names that might interest Sharks fans?

That’s an oddly specific question, but I do like where your head’s at. 

Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals LW: The former first-rounder is having a down year, his age (24 years old) and contract ($3 million cap hit) make him an intriguing candidate for the Sharks to take a flyer on. 

Micheal Ferland, Carolina Hurricanes LW: The longer the ‘Canes are in the race, the less likely they are to trade Ferland. Still, he was the bottom-six forward du jour in trade rumors for much of the season, and general manager Doug Wilson has never been afraid to add size. 

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings RW: Nyquist has always been a strong possession player, and his versatility makes him a fit just about anywhere among the Sharks’ top-nine forwards. 

Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings G: If the Sharks don't land Miller, Howard (.931 5-on-5 save percentage) is the best option available in net outside of Sergei Bobrovsky, who the Columbus Blue Jackets might or might not trade. 

We know what the Sharks have. We know what they might want. Will they make a trade?

Wilson’s history would indicate it’s pretty much an inevitability. The 2013-14 season was really the only time San Jose was in contention in Wilson’s tenure that he didn’t add a piece at (or around) the trade deadline.

Still, the Sharks are within striking distance of the top seed in the West as things stand right now. Wilson said last month the team was happy with its depth, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him stand pat on Monday.