Ward injury asks more questions of Sharks fourth line looking for answers


Ward injury asks more questions of Sharks fourth line looking for answers

UPDATE (11:15 AM): Joel Ward's now day-to-day with a shoulder injury, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters at Saturday's morning skate.  Ward initially feared he separated his shoulder.


The Sharks lost another veteran leader to injury on Thursday, and will be without him for the foreseeable future. 

Joel Ward suffered an upper-body injury in the second period of Thursday’s loss to the Golden Knights, and like injured teammate Joe Thornton, he’s out indefinitely, head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters on Friday. Ward seemed to injure his right shoulder when Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt hit him from behind while both players went after a loose puck along the boards midway through the second period, and he did not return. 

It’s clear that age has caught up to the 37-year-old winger, as he’s scored a career-low 0.24 points per game this season. But his absence leaves San Jose’s fourth line, which was already in need of answers, with even more questions. 

DeBoer’s cycled numerous players at the bottom of the lineup, giving looks to any combination of Ward, oft-scratched Jannik Hansen, young forwards Marcus Sorensen, Danny O’Regan, Barclay Goodrow, and the now-departed Ryan Carpenter. Since O’Regan’s call-up earlier this month, he’s had some success with the rookie, Goodrow, and Ward. 

In a hair over 23-and-a-half five-on-five minutes together, the trio has out-attempted their opponents, (56.76 corsi-for percentage), outshot opponents (68.18 shots-for percentage), and also outscored opponents two-to-one, according to Natural Stat Trick. The puck possession edge came primarily from a dominant effort against Carolina on Super Bowl Sunday, but those are still encouraging early returns for a line that’s looked for an identity all season. 

The search continues Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers, with Hansen set to slide in to Ward’s spot. Hansen’s played in just three games since the calendar flipped to 2018, and only about five minutes alongside O’Regan and Goodrow together.

He’s played with Goodrow and O’Regan individually, seeing far more of the puck with Goodrow (57.89 corsi-for percentage together) than with O’Regan (31.25 percent). This will be their first real look as a trio, and it comes at a critical juncture. 

With Thornton out, the scoring burden is spread throughout the rest of the lineup, and it’s even more important that the Sharks are able to ice a capable fourth line. Plus, the trade deadline is just 16 days away, and San Jose rumored to be looking for help on the fourth line prior to Ward’s injury. 

Goodrow’s largely been a fixture, but there should be a real sense of urgency for his linemates. O’Regan’s appeared overmatched at times, and could find himself back in the AHL if the Sharks make a move. Hansen, meanwhile, is a pending unrestricted free agent, and could find himself out of the organization entirely if San Jose decides to look elsewhere for help. 

Saturday’s not necessarily a last chance, but it may be the beginning of one. 

Assessing how Sharks' two trades impact the rest of their offseason plans


Assessing how Sharks' two trades impact the rest of their offseason plans

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson got an early start to his morning on Tuesday, making a pair of deals before most of the team's fans had woken up. 

To recap: San Jose acquired winger Mike Hoffman, a pick, and a prospect from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a package centered around struggling forward Mikkel Boedker. Ottawa announced that deal at 4:58 a.m. PT.  The Sharks then flipped Hoffman and a pick to the Florida Panthers for a trio of draft selections, a trade that Florida officially announced at 7:17 a.m. PT. 

Here's what each team acquired after the dust settled:

Sharks get:

  • Defenseman Cody Donaghey (from Senators)
  • 2020 fifth-round pick (from Senators)
  • 2018 fourth-round pick (from Panthers)
  • 2018 fifth-round pick (from Panthers)
  • 2019 second-round pick (from Panthers)

Senators get (from Sharks):

  • Forward Mikkel Boedker
  • Defenseman Julis Bergman
  • 2020 sixth-round pick

Panthers get (from Sharks):

  • Forward Mike Hoffman
  • 2018 seventh-round pick 

So what does it all mean for the Sharks? Perhaps most importantly, trading Boedker's contract, who was just seeming to find his place in the lineup down the stretch this season after signing a four-year deal with the team two summers ago, clears an additional $4 million in salary cap space over the next two seasons (and $6 million in total salary).  With the cap set to rise to between $78 million and $82 million, San Jose would (as of now) have between $14.5 million and $18.5 million in cap space, and that's before considering the possibility that the team buys out Paul Martin's contract. 

Even if no other moves are made, the Sharks are in position to make a splash in free agency. According to The Sporting News' Evan Sporer, their maneuvering is designed to chase not one, but two of the biggest free-agent fish this summer. 

In his statement announcing the trades, Wilson said the deals "free up a substantial amount of cap space for internal and external player options in the coming months," and re-stocked on draft picks. It was a tidy bit of trading, as San Jose improved upon each of the selections it traded away, and now has seven picks in this year's draft after entering the day with just five. 

He also said that the deal opens a spot for the young forwards in the organization to challenge for ice time. Wilson specifically mentioned Kevin Labanc (who actually averaged more ice time than Boedker this season), playoff hero Marcus Sorensen, newly-signed European free agents Antti Suomela and Vincent Praplan, as well as rookies Dylan Gambrell and Max Letunov. 

Meanwhile, Hoffman joined Theo Fleury and Mark Messier in the "Sharks For A Few Hours" club, and has a new home following accusations that his girlfriend, Monica Caryk, harassed a teammate's wife. Last week, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Melinda Karlsson, wife of Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, had filed for an order of protection against Hoffman's girlfriend and accused her of an online harassment campaign throughout the season.

As a result, Hoffman's trade value plummeted from where it was at the trade deadline, according to ESPN's  Greg Wyshynski.

Pierre LeBrun told TSN that the trade was not a three-way deal, as the Sharks and Senators reportedly did not communicate about the subsequent trade with the Panthers. Wilson's no stranger to creatively facilitating some of the offseason's biggest deals, however. He acquired a pair of players and a pick from the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010 so Atlanta could acquire Dustin Byfuglien from then-Stanley Cup champions Chicago, and  he also acquired goaltender Martin Jones from the Boston Bruins three years ago just days after the Los Angeles Kings shipped him (and a first-round pick) up to Boston for Milan Lucic.

In series of deals, Sharks trade Boedker, acquire four draft picks


In series of deals, Sharks trade Boedker, acquire four draft picks

While you were sleeping, the Sharks were busy making moves.

At 4:58am PT, the Ottawa Senators announced that they had acquired forward Mikkel Boedker, defenseman Julius Bergman and the Sharks' 2020 sixth round pick for forward Mike Hoffman, Ottawa's 2020 fifth round pick and defenseman Cody Donaghey.

Hoffman played in all 82 games this season and finished with 22 goals and 34 assists. But before he could even be fitted for a Sharks jersey, San Jose flipped Hoffman to the Florida Panthers along with their 2018 seventh round pick for Florida's 2019 second round pick, a 2018 fourth round pick (previously owned by Vegas) and Florida's 2018 fifth round pick.

By trading Boedker, the Sharks cleared $4 million in salary cap space.