Why Keith Jones expects Sharks to trade Brenden Dillon, other veterans

Why Keith Jones expects Sharks to trade Brenden Dillon, other veterans

The Sharks are less than three weeks away from the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24, and they have every reason to be very active in discussions with other teams. Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames was only San Jose's 23rd victory in 54 games so far this season, and unless the team immediately catches fire, it is highly likely to miss out on the playoffs.

Making matters worse for the Sharks, who currently have the sixth-lowest point total in the league: They don't own their own first-round pick in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft. That was conveyed to the Ottawa Senators as soon as San Jose signed defenseman Erik Karlsson to an eight-year contract extension this past offseason, and while you make that trade-off 100 times out of 100, there's no denying the Sharks' disappointing play this season has come at a truly awful time.

With San Jose unlikely to qualify for the postseason while having no reason to tank, it's imperative that the Sharks get what assets they can at the trade deadline in order to help expedite a rebuild. That means that any player who could be of more use to another team than he would be to San Jose should absolutely be floated in trade discussions.

Defenseman Brenden Dillon certainly qualifies, and NBC Sports' Keith Jones believes he should definitely have his bags packed.

"I'm 90 percent certain that [Dillon] will be traded," Jones told NBC Sports California, "so we'll call that I'm certain he'll be traded. I think the Florida Panthers stand out as a team to me that would use and need his services. I think you're talking about getting a second-round pick for Brenden Dillon, which would be really good for Doug Wilson. I think he has an element of toughness that a lot of teams want when the playoffs roll around." 

While Jones sees Florida as being a viable trade partner for San Jose, so too does he view one of the Panthers' main division rivals.

"Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that's competing with the Florida Panthers, could use him as well," Jones continued. "It'll come down to some teams having enough cap space to be able to do so, but there's a lot of Maple Leafs' forwards that would be interesting in a trade heading back to San Jose. I don't think it necessarily would have to be a draft choice if the Maple Leafs were the team that they end up dealing him to."

While Dillon is the most likely member of the Sharks to be traded before the deadline, several of San Jose's veterans could be on the move, as well. Watching Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, both at 40 years old, continue to reach milestones in a Sharks uniform has been one of the highlights of San Jose's season, but Jones wouldn't hesitate to send them elsewhere if he were in charge.

"I would move them both," Jones said. "I think there's a likelihood that at least one of them will be traded. But if I was Doug Wilson, and if I was Marleau or Thornton, I'd be looking for a chance to try to win the Stanley Cup and get my name on that tin can. So I would be pushing it a little bit. If Joe Thornton was looking around, I think a fit in Tampa Bay would be a good spot for Joe to show up and try to win a Stanley Cup with that team. For Marleau, he can fit in anywhere. The legs are still there, he's still a very capable penalty killer and has a wealth of experience that would help any contending team. So, I would move them both."

[RELATED: Goodrow's fight was turning point in Sharks' win vs. Flames]

Depending on how many veterans the Sharks unload, that could make interim coach Bob Boughner's job for the rest of the season even tougher. San Jose is inclined to give opportunities to younger players, but remember, Boughner is fighting for a job of his own, too. Regardless of what happens at the deadline, Jones expects Boughner to be able to show what he needs to in order to get the interim tag removed, despite the fact that there are some other intriguing names available on the coaching market.

"He has to continue to have his team tough things out and not stop playing," Jones said of Boughner. "That's the No. 1 thing. He has got to make sure they stay competitive, he has got to make sure that the players continue to stay in the fight. That would be the No. 1 thing that I'd be looking for if I was Doug Wilson, and you can be sure that Bob Boughner's going to continue to keep his team in the fight. 

"The one name that's out there right now is Peter Laviolette. That would be an easy choice based upon his experience throughout the playoffs, but it also depends on where you think San Jose is going to be next year. I think Boughner is the right guy for the job. I would not hesitate to get that interim tag taken off his label and get him out there as the head coach and get things started fresh next year."

The Sharks might not be headed to the playoffs, but they still have things to play for this season. They have things to trade for, too.

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

It's not clear when the Sharks will play next.

One star took a big step towards rejoining them when they do.

Tomas Hertl posted a video Wednesday on his Instagram of him skating in his native Czech Republic, writing that he was "[f]inally back" on the ice.

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Finally back 🏒 @filipchlapik @hertlik89

A post shared by Tomas Hertl (@hertlik48) on

Hertl, 26, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in January and missed the final 18 games of the Sharks' season before it was suspended -- and, ultimately, ended -- due to the coronavirus pandemic. The center injured his knee on Jan. 29 against the Vancouver Canucks, just four days after playing in his first All-Star Game. 

The 2012 first-round pick was one of the lone bright spots in the Sharks' otherwise dreary season, scoring 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 48 games. San Jose generated 56.76 percent of the expected goals and 54.38 percent of the high-danger chances with Hertl on the ice at full strength, according to Natural Stat Trick, and Hertl himself accounted for his highest rate of 5-on-5 expected goals (0.95 per hour) of any season other than his rookie year.

Hertl said in May that he expected to be ready to start the 2020-21 season, no matter when that is.

"I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away," Hertl said at the time. "My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”

[RELATED: Thornton reportedly could play in Switzerland before NHL season]

Hertl's return to the ice marks an offseason milestone for the forward, who's signed through 2022.

He and his wife, Aneta, announced last month that they're expecting a baby in November.

'Red Penguins' tells wild story of NHL team's foray into Russian hockey

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'Red Penguins' tells wild story of NHL team's foray into Russian hockey

Vodka, violence and victory.

“Red Penguins,” a documentary released by Universal for streaming On Demand on Tuesday, chronicles the brief foray by the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins into ownership of a Russian professional hockey team. The film features plenty of vodka and violence, although victory proved to be elusive.

Penguins owners Tom Ruta and Steven Baldwin made the decision to invest in the struggling club HC CSKA Moscow, which previously had been controlled by the Soviet Union’s Red Army. Steven Warshaw, then the Penguins' vice president for sales and marketing, was the man tasked with overseeing the day-to-day operations on the ground in Moscow, and guides you through all of the unbelievable twists and turns that came with bringing American ideals of organizational structure and capitalism into a society that was amid a transition from decades of communism.

An in-arena strip club, live bears serving beer and a near nine-figure partnership with Disney are just part of what came to define the Penguins’ wild reign behind the Iron Curtain.

Director Gabe Polsky utilizes Warshaw and his enigmatic personality to tell the majority of the story, but also includes interviews from Russia with the team’s former mascot and broadcaster in Moscow, as well as former Red Army manager Valery Gushin, who developed a unique relationship with Warshaw that was both friendly and contentious.

The crew had to traverse some dangerous ground in collecting the interviews, and even had one interview interrupted by KGB officials.

“This overweight man was just sort of standing behind us for like, way more longer than comfortable,” Polsky said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area last week. “Within a couple minutes, the police show up and you hear it, and start saying ‘get the hell out of here,’ and basically they thought there was a bomb nearby.”

Equal parts hilarious and chilling, “Red Penguins” showcases the wildest aspects of running a professional sports franchise in Russia while detailing the danger and sadness that can be a consequence of doing business parallel to an organized crime syndicate.

Polsky, who is the son of Soviet immigrants to the United States, believes American hockey fans and sports fans in general can get a unique look at the complicated relationship between the two world superpowers, and how that dynamic both brought the Penguins immense popularity in Russia and led to their downfall.

“Almost no films out there, that are English-speaking, that take the audience into Russia,” Polsky said. “Seeing the people, understand the psychology, mentality, up against the American mentality, and you see it even more clearly.

“There’s a lot to kind of unpack and understand in this film.”

Whether you’re a Sharks fan, a general sports fan or even just someone who enjoys a compelling story involving international relations, “Red Penguins” will have you glued to your screen.