Sharks general manager Doug Wilson already pushed his chips all in back in September, when San Jose acquired all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson.
He had one of the best hands at the table leading up to the NHL trade deadline, yet Wilson still scrounged his pockets for a few more chips to raise his big bet, trading a couple of draft picks for Detroit Red Wings playmaker Gustav Nyquist.
Before you ask, we're well-aware this wouldn't be possible in any officially sanctioned card game of cards or dice. It's in the name: "All in" means you've bet everything you have. But metaphors can only go so far, and Wilson clearly doubled down on San Jose's pursuit of a Stanley Cup with Sunday's trade.
On Monday, most of the Sharks' peers atop the Western Conference followed his lead.
The Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets brought in center Kevin Hayes and depth defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. The Nashville Predators' forwards got a makeover, as the team swapped out Kevin Fiala and Ryan Hartman for Mikael Granlund and Wayne Simmonds, respectively. The Calgalry Flames didn't do much, but it's hard to fault the team in the driver's seat for home-ice advantage in the Western Conference.
Befitting of their location, the Vegas Golden Knights made a bigger bet than anyone else. The second-year franchise traded a top prospect who's drawn comparisons to Karlsson in a package for a high-scoring forward who played with Karlsson. Defenseman Erik Branstromm is headed to the Ottawa Senators, and Mark Stone will go to Sin City -- and reportedly for a very long time, at that.
Standing 16 points and two standings spots back of the Flames for first in the division, Vegas needed to make a big move more than anyone else. Stone, a prolific scorer and an elite driver of puck possession, certainly fits the bill.
He seems set to join Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson on a revamped top line for the Golden Knights, All of a sudden, Vegas' forward group feels a lot more like the one that steamrolled through the Western Conference a year ago.
The Stone trade makes catching the Flames atop the Pacific particularly important for the Sharks down the stretch. Sure, Vegas only has three more points than the Minnesota Wild, who held the West's second wild-card spot on Monday, but that gap feels much wider after Monday. A first-round series against the Golden Knights could go the distance, and even mean an early exit.
But the Sharks still have plenty of reasons to be confident. They've scored more goals than just about anyone this season, and that was without Nyquist.
Nyquist might not be Stone, but he is in the middle of a career year offensively and is no slouch in terms of puck possession. Relative to his teammates, Nyquist has posted positive 5-on-5 numbers in all but two seasons of his NHL career, according to Natural Stat Trick.
He should fit in seamlessly with San Jose's style of play. The Sharks are no worse than fifth in controlling shot attempts, shots, or chances, and adding a strong possession player to an already deep crop of forwards is a move that solidifies an existing strength.
The Sharks are in striking distance of the top of the Western Conference because of that strength, and doubling down puts them in position to get there.