Aaron Dell

What Sharks' NHL trade deadline moves, inaction mean for team's future

What Sharks' NHL trade deadline moves, inaction mean for team's future

Before delving into anything else, it’s important to establish that the 2020 NHL trade deadline was unlike any other for Doug Wilson across the last decade.

Instead of adding the final complementary pieces to a usual contender, the Sharks general manager's maneuvering would be measured by subtraction, flexibility gained, and draft picks coming back. 

Here are select perspectives from what did -- and did not -- happen today.

Joe Thornton stays

On the outside, it may seem confusing that Joe Thornton remained with San Jose. If given the chance to leapfrog his way to the front of Stanley Cup contention, why didn’t he capitalize?

The opportunities to contribute in Boston (where he started) or Dallas (alongside Joe Pavelski) must have been enticing. Also, why, at 40 years old, would he elect to spend the remaining twenty games of this season with a Sharks core decimated by injuries?

Between quotes you will and won’t read, know this: Thornton is a loyalist. He always has taken “hometown discounts” to stay in San Jose, potentially missing out on an eight-digit haul over the years by routinely taking less money to re-sign with the Sharks. But more importantly, he already is aiming for a return in San Jose next season, something that is usually reserved for summer declaration.

There also is some possibility that in the end, Boston and Dallas couldn’t align with San Jose on the right compensation package. The Bruins already made their splash three days ago, acquiring Ondrej Kase from Anaheim, and the Stars stood completely pat at the deadline.

Patrick Marleau leaves

It’s been a weird stretch for Patrick Marleau, who joins his fourth NHL team since the end of last regular season with his trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This is especially so for a player who spent the previous 19 campaigns only with San Jose.

It’s no surprise he bit on what Thornton did not, becoming part of the league’s fifth-best point-producer in Pittsburgh -- certainly one of the bonafide favorites for the Cup. The ability to play alongside Sidney Crosby also had to factor into the equation, along with Marleau’s childhood fascination with the Pens.

According to CapFriendly.com, Marleau’s one-year deal for this season did not include any movement clauses. But it’s difficult to imagine he resisted this transaction, which includes a conditional second or third-round pick for the Sharks in 2021.

Additionally, it’s believed that the door will remain open for Marleau to re-sign in San Jose next season.

Barclay Goodrow traded

Goodrow, Brenden Dillon, and Marleau arguably were three of San Jose’s better storylines this season. To no surprise, that’s what Tampa Bay, Washington and Pittsburgh sought after.

As for Goodrow, his versatility and upside with the Sharks this season was tangible, helping net a 2020 first-round pick from the Lightning in return. He also is under contract for next season for less than $1 million.

While the high draft selection could greatly benefit San Jose over time, the team certainly is a lot less deep in the present. Down an every-line center like Goodrow, who also was a mainstay on their top-tier penalty killing unit, will be tough to recover from in the short term. 

Still, Goodrow leaves the franchise a hero after having scored arguably it’s most important goal, the overtime winner in Game 7 against Vegas, less than one year ago.

Aaron Dell stays

He wasn’t commonly discussed on the forefront of trade rumors, and certainly, the market for goalie movement wasn’t overwhelming. But Dell certainly did enough in recent months to prove his stock in this league, and maybe even land as a team’s No. 1 next season.

The Sharks either couldn’t find a great enough return for Dell, or a committed suitor, or they feel there is an inside track to retain him for next season. If that’s the case, it creates the interesting dilemma that the Sharks already have Martin Jones signed until 2024, at a starter-sized cap hit.

[RELATED: Marleau can fill hole on résumé after trade from Sharks]

Did the Sharks do enough?

Clearly, work remains with the Sharks in terms of reshaping their roster. While restocking draft picks for this and next year do help down the road, did they get better or more cap-flexible across the next two seasons? Does this force them into a longer rebuild, much lengthier than the more expeditious re-tools we have seen in recent years?

Historically, this team has made it’s higher profile moves in summer months, such as Brent Burns, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle. By not committing to any major transactions today, all the Sharks did was set themselves up for a bigger agenda come July and beyond.

NHL trade deadline: What Sharks fans need to know before dealing ends

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AP

NHL trade deadline: What Sharks fans need to know before dealing ends

The Sharks are in a somewhat unfamiliar spot this trade deadline. 

San Jose almost certainly will not make the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2015, making general manager Doug Wilson a seller heading into the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Wilson already has got the ball rolling puck dropped on this process, shipping out defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday for a pair of draft picks. The return left a bit to be desired, as my comrade in content Brian Witt argued after the deal, but Dillon's departure formally marked the beginning of Wilson's re-tooling as he looks to get the Sharks back in playoff contention next season. 

Who could be on their way out? Which contenders have salary-cap space to burn? Here are the answers to the most pressing questions headed into Monday's deadline. 

When is the NHL trade deadline?

Monday, Feb. 24 at noon PT. 

How much salary-cap space do the Sharks have?

The fine folks at Cap Friendly project the Sharks will have $6,431,667 in salary-cap space at the deadline. The Sharks have not yet placed defenseman Erik Karlsson on long-term injured reserve, according to the site, and placing his $11.5 million cap hit on LTIR would give San Jose a significant amount of room to work with. 

Who are the pending unrestricted free agents on the roster? 

Forwards Melker Karlsson ($2 million cap hit), Joe Thornton ($2 million), Patrick Marleau ($700,000), Stefan Noesen ($700,000), defensemen Tim Heed ($960,000), Radim Simek ($675,000) and goaltender Aaron Dell ($1.9 million) all can become UFAs on July 1. 

Who is most likely to get traded? 

Karlsson seems to be the likeliest candidate. He's a versatile bottom-six forward with three seasons of 10-plus goals who spends a lot of time on the penalty kill. The Swedish winger is not going to command a haul, but he's exactly the kind of player rival GMs with Stanley Cup aspirations give up a mid-round pick for at the deadline. But Karlsson left the Prudential Center in a walking boot after the Sharks' loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, according to The Athletic's Kevin Kurz, and the severity of the injury will determine what kind of return -- if any -- San Jose could fetch for the forward.

The Sharks seem to view Simek as part of their future on the blue line, while Noesen has scored just five goals in 24 games with San Jose since the Pittsburgh Penguins waived him earlier this season. Dell, Marleau and Thornton are intriguing trade possibilities, however. 

The latter two wouldn't bring back much in a trade, but could the 40-year-olds compel a contender to pull a Ray Bourque and trade for a franchise icon in the twilight of his career? The call will be Marleau and Thornton's, especially in the latter case given the trade protection in his contract. 

Dell has seized the reigns as the Sharks' starter in net, and San Jose's handling of him at the deadline will make it clear how the team views him heading into the 2020-21 season. The Sharks won't trade him if they see him as their starter next year, but it could be prudent to maximize the return if they don't. They'll be worse in the short-term, increasing the likelihood the Ottawa Senators draft a top prospect with one of the picks the Sharks traded for Erik Karlsson, but that shouldn't weigh into their decision since that's the risk you run when you don't lottery-protect a pick. 

What about the rest of the Sharks' roster?

The Sharks are going to finish a mile out of the playoffs, and they have a lot of big money on the books. They are paying eight players at least $5 million: Two are done for the year (Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl), one is working his way back from injury (Logan Couture) and four of the five players have some kind of trade protection (Evander Kane, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones). Could the Sharks clear a star's salary at the deadline? 

Wilson told reporters Tuesday that the Sharks have "the bones in place" of a playoff team next season, and it's difficult to envision San Jose reaching that goal without most of those contracts -- or equivalent players at different positions with similar salaries -- on the books. The Sharks tinkered around the edges of the roster in 2015 when they last missed the playoffs, saving the splash for the summer in trading for Jones. 

Don't bet on the Sharks trading a big name -- or a prospect for a big name -- Monday, and save your predictions for NHL draft weekend in late June.

[RELATED: Hannan explains what Dillon, Sharks are going through]

Who are the contenders to keep an eye on?

Any team in the Stanley Cup playoffs is a possibility, but some teams are worth monitoring more than others. Below is a non-exhaustive list of contenders who could call Wilson before Monday. 

  • Colorado Avalanche: The Avs currently have more salary-cap space than any team in playoff position (over $25.5 million as of this writing, per Cap Friendly), and top-six forwards Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri currently are on injured reserve. NHL executives reportedly believe the Avalanche could be a fit for Thornton, and he wouldn't add any long-term money to Colorado's books. 
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford told The Athletic that he is "looking for a bottom-six guy who can give us depth, fit in on different lines, give us some balance." That could be Melker Karlsson, if healthy, though Pittsburgh's lack of 2020 picks and subpar farm system mean Wilson should have better options elsewhere.  
  • Vegas Golden Knights: The Sharks have never traded with their division rivals, but Peter DeBoer now is behind the Golden Knights' bench. Vegas is right up against the cap, even with Alex Tuch on LTIR. San Jose would be able to retain salary on each of its pending free agents, or even take back a matching contract. Could the Knights be a Karlsson fit, given his history with DeBoer? 
  • Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes and lackluster goaltending have gone together like peanut butter and jelly over the last half-decade, and this year is no different. Carolina is in the bottom third of the league in 5-on-5 save percentage while in a fierce fight for the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot. The Canes reportedly are interested in Chicago netminder Robin Lehner, and Dell would be a cheaper fallback option -- if the Sharks actually decide to trade him. 
  • Nashville Predators: Calling the Predators "contenders" is generous, but Nashville still has a path to the postseason. The Predators, like the Sharks, fired their coach earlier this season in hopes of meeting preseason expectations. Could Preds GM David Poile pull the trigger on a blockbuster, and possibly for one of the Sharks' aforementioned big contracts? Nashville seems like as good an option as any to pull off something surprising this deadline. 

 

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way this Monday, Feb. 24 at 11:30am on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the Noon deadline? Don’t miss it!

How Sharks can use 2020 NHL trade deadline to upgrade goalie position

How Sharks can use 2020 NHL trade deadline to upgrade goalie position

It's no secret the Sharks have suffered from below-average goaltending over the last two seasons. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning scored more goals than San Jose last year, and yet they were one of seven teams with a better goal differential than the Sharks, who finished with the worst cumulative save percentage in the NHL (.889). It's barely been any better this season, as the tandem of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has posted a .894 cumulative save percentage thus far, ranking 29th out of 31 teams.

Making matters worse, there's no obvious solution on the horizon. Jones, 30, has another four years remaining on his contract at $5.7 million per after this season, and he actually has performed worse in 2019-20 than he did in 2018-19. His save percentage and goals-against average both have continued to move in the wrong direction, and the fact that Dell appears to have taken over the No. 1 job doesn't exactly bode well for his ability to turn things around.

Dell, on the other hand, arguably has been San Jose's biggest bright spot in what has been a thoroughly disappointing season. His save percentage (.909) and GAA (.289) nearly are identical to the league averages. The problem is, he turns 31 in May and will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season. Chances are, Dell will get a more lucrative offer on the open market than San Jose will be able to afford.

Making the situation even direr, the Sharks currently don't have any other goalies in their system with NHL experience beyond Jones and Dell.

Of course, this all assumes San Jose maintains the status quo. But we're only a few days away from the trade deadline, which has the potential to shake up the established order. There are numerous potential trade possibilities through which the Sharks could upgrade the goalie position, whether in the immediate or with eyes toward the future.

Robin Lehner

Lehner had a tremendous season (25-13-5) for the New York Islanders last year, but for whatever reason, he didn't receive the long-term offers he was looking for in free agency, so he ended up signing a one-year, $5 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. The 28-year-old has outperformed that contract this season, and has played better than his 35-year-old counterpart Corey Crawford, who, like Lehner, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. One naturally would assume Chicago would prefer to keep the better, younger goalie if forced to choose between the two, but Crawford has a modified no-trade clause and a no-movement clause in his contract, which basically rules out that possibility.

The Blackhawks would have to be highly motivated to part with Lehner, but due to his age and track record, San Jose would have every reason to be very interested in him. The Sharks would have to give up something they would prefer to keep -- maybe a package centered around Kevin Labanc? -- but as they've been constantly reminded over the last few seasons, good goalies are worth the price.

Casey DeSmith, Daniel Vladar

In an effort to find Jones' replacement, perhaps San Jose should use the same strategy it took in acquiring him. Jones had been trapped behind Jonathan Quick throughout his time with the Los Angeles Kings, but revealed himself to be a quality starting goaltender -- temporarily, at least -- once he got an opportunity with the Sharks.

Like Jones when he was with the Kings, Casey DeSmith, 28, has played well over a brief cup of coffee in the NHL. But with the Pittsburgh Penguins having one of the top young goaltending tandems in the league this season in Tristan Jarry (24) and Matt Murray (25), his path to the No. 1 spot is extremely obstructed. DeSmith has posted a 2.77 GAA and .908 save percentage over 36 AHL games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season, and carries a $1.25 million cap hit for the next two seasons after this one. He would cost significantly less to acquire than Lehner.

If the Sharks want to look further down the line and go even younger with their goaltending trade target, Daniel Vladar seems like a good prospect to focus on. The 22-year-old has posted a 1.79 GAA and .936 save percentage over 19 AHL games with the Providence Bruins this season, and with Tuukka Rask one of the leading candidates to win the Vezina Trophy, Vladar won't be taking over the top job with the Boston Bruins anytime soon.

Vladar is on the final year of his entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season  -- the exact scenario Jones was in when the Sharks acquired him. With Jaroslav Halak proving to be a more-than-adequate backup to Rask, San Jose might be able to acquire Vladar on the cheap depending on Boston's plans for him.

[RELATED: Why Sharks probably could have done better in Dillon trade]

Henrik Lundqvist

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum of Vladar is soon-to-be 38-year-old Henrik Lundqvist. The legendary goalie appears to be at the tail end of his impressive tenure with the New York Rangers, as he now is both considerably older and arguably worse than Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin, who both appear to have passed him on the depth chart.

The Rangers only have been slightly better than the Sharks this season, so they, too, have every reason to look towards the future -- which Lundqvist doesn't figure into. The problem is, King Henrik is on the books for $8.5 million this season and the next before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

His peripheral stats this season are very similar to Jones, but he also has a much lengthier track record of success. Lundqvist is the NHL's current active leader with 184.1 goals saved above average throughout his career, according to Hockey Reference, which ranks as the 14th-most all-time. Jones, on the other hand, is at -21.7 over his seven-year career and has never ranked in the top-20 in that category in any single season during his tenure with the Sharks.

Might the two sides consider swapping their expensive, yet underperforming netminders? From the Sharks' perspective, they would get out of the remaining four years on Jones' contract and only take back salary for next season. Lundqvist also would potentially upgrade the position for San Jose, and would fit right into the franchise's hopes to get back into contention next year. For New York, the appeal would be in getting younger and cheaper in the immediate, and adding whatever else the Sharks likely would need to involve in the trade to get a deal done.

While it's uncertain how the Sharks plan to address their goaltending situation moving forward, there is no question that they must do so. The status quo clearly isn't working, and the trade deadline offers an opportunity for San Jose to go in a new direction.

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way this Monday, Feb. 24 at 11:30 am on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the Noon deadline? Don’t miss it!