Melker Karlsson

Three players the Sharks might have to trade to clear salary-cap space

Three players the Sharks might have to trade to clear salary-cap space

The first few days of NHL free agency have been long and emotional for the Sharks. But there is far more work that needs to be done before the end of the summer.

San Jose still has 16 players on its free agent docket with a roster that needs to be filled out and just $6,382,583 in cap space, according to CapFriendly. If the Sharks are going to sign Kevin Labanc, Dylan Gambrell and Joe Thornton, they're going to have to make some moves -- even if it means making another Justin Braun-style trade that gets rid of a familiar face for the sake of creating cap space.

Here's a look at a few current Sharks who have been mentioned in trade rumors this summer, and the overall likelihood they'll be on the move as the team searches for relief under the salary cap.

Melker Karlsson, Forward

The Swedish winger long has been a favorite of Peter DeBoer. He's a player that the Sharks' coach feels comfortable moving throughout the lineup to try and create offense and is a familiar face on San Jose's penalty kill.

But Karlsson could be a player that gets moved, given he's entering the final year of his current contract and carries a $2 million hit against the salary cap.

The Sharks also need to improve their fourth line, which was in constant flux throughout the 2018-19 campaign. San Jose has yet to sign Gambrell -- a restricted free-agent -- who could compete for the job of fourth-line center following a productive showing in 2018-19. As much as DeBoer likes having Karlsson in his lineup, he might be on the way out before the summer is over.

Aaron Dell, Goaltender

The backup netminder's name has been floated around as a potential trade piece for a good chunk of the offseason. Moving Dell would, in fact, make sense for the Sharks, given he only has one year remaining on his current contract which carries a $1.9 million cap hit. If the 30-year-old goaltender departed, it would clear the way for one of the San Jose Barracuda's promising goalies to have the opportunity to back up Martin Jones.

The only problem here, as you probably already figured out, is that Dell's numbers last season weren't very good. Much like Jones, Dell's performance took a dip in the 2018-19 regular season and he ended with a 3.17 goals-against average and .886 save percentage.

For the Sharks to successfully trade Dell, they'll probably have to offer something else to sweeten the deal.

[RELATED: How Pavelski's exit opens the door for Meier, young Sharks]

Brenden Dillon, Defenseman

Of all the Sharks that have been connected to trade rumors this summer, this one actually seems like the least likely. If San Jose needs to free up as much space as possible, it might prove necessary.

Sure, it makes sense from a money standpoint. Dillon is entering the final year of his contract, which carries a $3.27 million cap hit. But getting rid of the 28-year-old blueliner who led the team in plus-minus last season would leave a gigantic hole in San Jose's d-corps that would be very difficult to fill. Just look at how effective Dillon was playing alongside Erik Karlsson last season.

Plus, it would leave San Jose without a left-handed defenseman. While the team is grooming Jacob Middleton to play a bigger role at the NHL level next season, he probably isn't ready to take on that much playing time.

Despite being linked to rumors this offseason, trading Dillon carries the biggest risk.

Why Sharks' lines could look much different in Game 3 against Blues

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Why Sharks' lines could look much different in Game 3 against Blues

From the look of morning skate at Enterprise Center on Wednesday, the Sharks could potentially roll out different bottom six lines for Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues after falling 4-2 in Game 2.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t confirm whether those changes would stick come game time. He did say, however, that he was looking for a spark from his depth players.

“The playoffs are all about depth,” he told the media after Wednesday’s morning skate. “On the runs we’ve had and where we’ve had success here, it’s been about contributions throughout your lineup. From all four lines.”

From the look of Wednesday’s practice, San Jose’s top two lines manned by Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl will stay intact. In practice, Melker Karlsson moved up to Joe Thornton’s wing opposite Kevin Labanc, in place of Marcus Sorensen. Micheal Haley took rushes with Barclay Goodrow and Joonas Donskoi on the fourth line.

When pressed by the media as to why Sorensen may be out of the lineup for Game 3, DeBoer commented only on the status of his depth scorers as a whole and the fact he wants to see them play a more energetic game on Wednesday night.

“I think Marcus is like our whole group of forwards,” he said. “I think we have a good group that’s built for this time of year. They play an honest game, they play inside, they play with energy. So we’re looking for all of those things.”

While the changes at morning skate may have some fans scratching their heads, the new-look fourth line of Donskoi-Goodrow-Haley previously played together 7:37 minutes during the regular season according to Natural Stat Trick. Given that Donskoi has played well on that fourth line since returning to the lineup from an injury in the second round, it isn’t too surprising he will be kept on that line with Goodrow – particularly since the two generated four five-on-five goals together in the regular season.

[RELATED: Five observations from Sharks' 4-2 loss]

Melker Karlsson is also a player DeBoer has traditionally moved throughout the lineup when he’s trying to get the offense going, hence the reason he could start the game on Thornton’s wing. Thornton and Karlsson logged a little over 60 minutes in ice time together during the regular season, while Karlsson and Labanc combined for six goals in five-on-five play, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-2 loss vs. Blues in Game 2

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Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-2 loss vs. Blues in Game 2

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- It isn’t entirely clear what it is about the Sharks in the second games of playoff series this postseason. Despite an incredible effort by Logan Couture to tie the game up in the second period, San Jose dropped Game 2 of the Western Conference final 4-2 to the St. Louis Blues. 

Here are three takeaways from Game 2: 

St. Louis had the depth scoring 

While the Blues got on the board in the first frame thanks to their top line, they also got depth contributions from Vince Dunn, Robert Bortuzzo, and Oskar Sundqvist. That's the kind of contribution the Sharks could benefit from getting more of in this series.

Outside of Kevin Labanc’s goal in Game 1, San Jose’s big guns have been carrying the offense so far through this series. If they’re going to knock the Blues out of the playoffs, they need to get contributions from more than just their top six.

The penalty kill kept it close

San Jose could’ve been in a much deeper hole in Game 2 had their kill not brought its A-game. Even before Couture scored a short-handed goal in the second period, the kill was generating offense and causing St. Louis’ power play fits.

Credit has to be given to Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi in particular for their work in Game 2. Killing penalties isn’t exactly the most glamorous job on the ice, but it has been a big key to San Jose’s success in the latter part of these playoffs. There’s no doubt the Sharks would prefer to just play a very clean game, but at least they have a solid penalty kill to rely on.

Couture keeps on rolling

Before the start of Game 2, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was asked what makes Couture so effective in the playoffs. DeBoer confessed he didn’t know, adding that there are just, “guys in the history of the game that have that ability.” That ability was on premium display in the second period of Monday’s game when Couture dug the Sharks out of a two-goal hole by scoring twice in a span of 1:59 to tie things up 2-2.

Couture’s response is something the rest of his teammates need to feed off of. The Sharks have been really good at responding to adversity thus far, and that’s something they will need to do as they head on the road with the series tied 1-1.