Melker Karlsson

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!

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in surprising 2-0 win over Wild

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NBC Sports California

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in surprising 2-0 win over Wild

BOX SCORE

The Sharks were in a hole before the puck dropped Saturday.

They didn't trail before facing off against the Minnesota Wild, but they might have felt that way on the second night of a back-to-back. Star defenseman Erik Karlsson was ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken thumb and Evander Kane was handed a three-game suspension hours before the game. 

San Jose, somehow, found a way to win Saturday night, beating Minnesota 2-0 at Xcel Energy Center. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones stopped all 39 Wild shots, picking up San Jose's first shutout of the season in Dean Evason's first game as Minnesota's interim coach. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' second win in fewer than 24 hours.

Feel-good win in absence of good feelings

The Sharks had every reason to lose Saturday. The Kane and Karlsson news would have deflated any team, and playing on the second night of a back-to-back wouldn't bring out their best, either. 

San Jose wasn't necessarily at its best against Minnesota, as the Wild pressed their puck-possession advantage from puck drop through the final whistle. But the Sharks largely prevented the Wild from creating any quality chances, hanging around long enough to take the lead on a fortuitous bounce when Brent Burns' third-period shot bounced off Sharks forward Dylan Gambrell and in the net. 

Melker Karlsson's empty-netter sealed the game with under a minute remaining in regulation. Sometimes, luck is all you need in hockey, and the Sharks will take a feel-good win in a disappointing season devoid of many good feelings -- however they could have gotten it Saturday. 

Jones stands tall

Jones must love playing the Wild. He shut out Minnesota on March 11, 2019, and the 30-year-old picked up his first shutout since then -- and his fourth overall against Minnesota -- Saturday. 

His first start in over two weeks wasn't the most challenging, but Jones was a steady presence in the Sharks' crease. Saturday's start easily was Jones' best in 2020, after giving up at least four goals in each of his first three starts of the year.

Aaron Dell has seized the Sharks' starting role, but Jones has plenty to play for down the stretch. One shutout isn't enough to prove Jones -- who's under contract for four more years -- has a future in San Jose, but the Sharks' onetime franchise goalie surely hopes it's a start. 

[RELATED: Kane rips 'ridiculous' NHL Player Safety discipline record]

Power outage

Kane and Karlsson lead the Sharks in power-play goals (11) and assists (12), respectively, so San Jose's listless performance on the man advantage Saturday isn't a surprise. The Sharks' power play has recently struggled with both players in the lineup, scoring just three power-play goals in 20 opportunities over the last 10 games entering Saturday. 

San Jose didn't generate a single scoring chance on its lone power play, and that's probably going to be the norm with Kane, Karlsson and injured centers Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, all out of the lineup. You shouldn't expect much from the Sharks' power play when Kane returns to the lineup, either. 

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 win over desperate Jets

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 win over desperate Jets

BOX SCORE

The Sharks gave defenseman Brent Burns the best gift he could've asked for in his 1,100th NHL game. Other than a pair of antelope, that is. 

San Jose came back to beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Friday night, thanks to a pair of quick third-period goals from Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier. The Sharks turned a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead in just under 90 seconds, opening their two-game road trip with a well-earned victory over a team desperately pushing for a playoff spot. The Jets nearly forced overtime, but Kyle Connor hit the post with just under 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' third straight road win.

Sticking with it

The Sharks entered the third period with a 24-14 advantage on the shot clock and nothing to show for it. Then, the third period happened. 

Karlsson and Meier scored 1:29 apart early in the final frame, all while the Jets couldn't sustain any offense. Winnipeg didn't attempt a third-period shot until San Jose goaltender Aaron Dell stopped Patrik Laine's wrister 8:17 in.

The Sharks will welcome that change of pace, despite the Jets' late flurry as they pushed for a tying goal. San Jose has given up a higher share of 5-on-5 shots and quality chances under interim coach Bob Boughner than predecessor Peter DeBoer, but the Sharks had massive edges in both areas Friday and that set up their third-period comeback. 

Penalty kill nearly a killer again

Connor's between-the-legs beauty nearly swung the game. He evened things up with a stunning power-play goal, and Blake Wheeler gave the Jets a 2-1 lead soon after.

Connor's goal was just enough to briefly get the Jets back in the game, and the Sharks continued an ugly trend, too. San Jose has now allowed 10 power-play goals in the last 11 games, killing off just 22 of their 33 penalties. 

The penalty kill bounced back by keeping the Jets off the board in the third period, but a downward slide down the stretch could spell trouble. Dominant 5-on-5 efforts like Friday's more than makeup for short-handed struggles, but San Jose's penalty kill needs to start pulling its weight.

[RELATED: Should Sharks retire Jumbo, Patty's numbers on same night?]

A long time coming

Marcus Sorensen's first goal in over two months was befitting of a long wait. The Swedish-born forward first needed to poke a loose puck past Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck in the first period, then wait for the results of a coach's challenge and then rely on the scorekeeper crediting him with his sixth goal of the season after briefly giving it to Sharks rookie Alexander True.

Sorensen managed just two assists over his previous 25 games before scoring Friday. He found strong chemistry with new linemates True and Dylan Gambrell early, and the trio pinned Winnipeg in its own end during their limited looks with one another. 

The Sharks entered Friday with the fourth-fewest goals scored this season (145), and Sorensen's struggles after scoring a career-high 17 in 2018-19 have played a role. He won't reach that this season, but Sorensen's play alongside True and Gambrell bodes well for the Swede improving the rest of the way.