Florida Panthers

Brenden Dillon breaks down when asked about potential Sharks trade

Brenden Dillon breaks down when asked about potential Sharks trade

Brenden Dillon might have played last home game with the Sharks on Monday, and that clearly was weighing on him afterward.

Dillon can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and the defenseman has been linked with playoff contenders ahead of the NHL trade deadline. The Sharks, barring a near-miraculous push, almost certainly will miss the Stanley Cup playoffs, leading to speculation that they'll trade Dillon before the Feb. 24 deadline. 

The possibility becomes more real as the deadline nears, but that doesn't mean Dillon is having an easier time processing it. 

"I don't know. Kind of [have to] see what happens. ... I like being here," Dillon said, his voice cracking as he teared up. "I try to play hard every night. It's out of my control."

The Sharks acquired Dillon in a November 2014 trade, and he has called San Jose home ever since. Dillon emerged as a fixture on the Sharks' blue line, playing in at least 76 regular-season games -- and all 60 of their playoff games -- from 2015 through 2019. The 29-year-old has played in all 59 games for the Sharks this season, too, and San Jose has become his home.

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Trading pending unrestricted free agents is par for the course for teams on the outside looking in at the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Dillon's emotions Monday starkly highlighted the very real costs of making trades. Players are asked to uproot their lives at the drop of a hat, leaving behind friends, colleagues and often family. 

Yes, trades are a part of the business. The real and raw reactions are, too. 

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 matinee loss to Panthers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 matinee loss to Panthers

The Sharks couldn't bring their winning ways back from the road to San Jose, losing 5-3 to the Florida Panthers in a Presidents' Day matinee. 

Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was on the case, stopping 29 of 32 Sharks shots. San Jose cut Florida's lead to a goal two different times in the third period, but the Ice Cats pulled away and doubled their lead in both instances. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' loss in their final home game before the trade deadline. 

Too little, too late

The Sharks entered the third period trailing by a goal. They allowed a Panthers goal before getting a single shot on net in the final frame, and Bobrovsky didn't have to make his first save until there was 6:37 remaining in regulation and Florida had a two-goal lead. 

Kevin Labanc -- on the power play -- and Timo Meier -- with goaltender Aaron Dell pulled -- got the Sharks within one, but San Jose never generated much of a third-period push at full strength. Florida ultimately held a 10-5 advantage in 5-on-5 shots and a 6-4 edge in 5-on-5 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

The Sharks applied pressure after Meier's goal, but the push needed to come much sooner. The Panthers instead set the tone from the start of the third period onward, and Florida took two points as a result. 

True chemistry

Dylan Gambrell and Alexander True appear to be developing some solid chemistry. The pair were on the ice for a 5-on-5 Sharks goal for the third straight game, when True's forechecking allowed linemate Antti Suomela to set up Gambrell's second goal in as many games. 

Suomela left in the second period with an injury and didn't return, but Gambrell and True were strong together. The duo posted a 60 percent corsi-for percentage in 5:34 of 5-on-5 time, according to Natural Stat Trick, out-chancing the Panthers 4-2 during that time. 

True has played in just six NHL games, but he and Gambrell have brought the best out of one another in their short time together. It's worth keeping the pair together in the bottom-six once Evander Kane returns from his suspension. 

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End of an era? 

Monday was the Sharks' last home game before the trade deadline, and they could look much different when they next play in San Jose on Feb. 27. Pending free agents Brenden Dillon and Melker Karlsson could get shipped to Stanley Cup contenders in need of depth, but the real question is whether or not the Sharks will trade franchise legends Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. 

Both are 40 and nearing the end of their careers. Could the Sharks give them the Ray Bourque treatment, and trade them to a team with Cup aspirations? The Sharks want to be back in the mix in 2021, but this spring might represent the last real chance for the No. 1 and No. 2 selections in the 1997 NHL Draft to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in their careers. 

Thornton, for his part, told reporters Sunday that he didn't think Monday would be his last game as a Shark at SAP Center. The call should be Thornton and Marleau's alone, given all they've done for the franchise, and we'll know a week from Monday if they'll finish out the season -- and potentially their careers -- in San Jose. 

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."

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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.