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."
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.