One of the reasons I admire Doug Wilson is his patience as a general manager. He wields a blend of effective reasoning and tight-fisted negotiation that has earned him respect from GMs across the league. As GM of the San Jose Sharks, he hasn’t been one to make a deal for the sake of popular demand- every move is discussed and reasoned, with its consequences and positives weighed carefully. Watching the man work is a beautiful thing to behold. I can only imagine where else his negotiating skills come in handy.
Unlike teams such as Chicago and Anaheim, Wilson isn’t just interested in winning one Cup and letting his team fall apart after. He wants a system in place that will produce for years to come. And while this mindset has yet to win us a Cup, know that when the time comes, it will not be by chance or luck. It will be earned. And it will only be the beginning.
But, like every other GM on July 1st, Wilson will tinker and pry with the mechanics of his team to try and construct the most competitive and effective group of players possible.
Here’s the good news: Looking at Capgeek , our team’s big pieces are mostly in place. Most of the household names (Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Martin Havlat, Dan Boyle, Logan Couture, and the newly minted Brent Burns) are all locked up through 2014-15. Supporters of players such as Marleau and Pavelski will be happy to know they’re not looking to be moved. However (hopefully not), if Wilson decides he wants to make a move and trade a big name, he can expect a lofty price in return. Wilson isn’t desperate to get rid of anyone on this team, and can get a nice return for any of the big pieces he might entertain moving this offseason. Either way you look at it, the Sharks’ front office sits in a comfortable position to makes moves that will benefit the team and its roster. It’s a nice place to be. And with Rick Nash essentially off the table, Wilson isn’t expected to make much noise in terms of blockbuster deals this summer. Players like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are fun to think about, but given the cap space and our already crowded arsenal of top forwards and defensemen, it might do more harm than good to bring another star player into the mix.
Overall, the Sharks have a solid mix of players. It’s now up to Wilson to solidify the chemistry of this team, and strike a balance between talent and effectiveness on the ice.
#5. OUT: MICHAL HANDZUS
First to go on the chopping block is Michal Handzus. What the Sharks need are supporting cast members. Players who may not make the headlines every night, but put forth a consistent effort night in and night out to help assist the team’s top players do what they need to. Sadly, Handzus was none of these things. Wilson’s primary focus this offseason is going to be acquiring solid third line players to reshape the bottom lines, and adjusting the penalty kill accordingly. He faces a problem in having to deal with Handzus’ no-trade clause, meaning either Handzus gets the final say in his being shipped off somewhere or Wilson bites the bullet and builds a line around the center in the hopes of reviving his play.
Personally, I would prefer Wilson to do the former. When Handzus was signed, he was expected him to solidify the penalty kill of the Sharks. Given the Sharks shorthanded efforts last year, it’s safe to say that role is once again up for grabs.
IN: Dominic Moore, SJ.
Luckily, the Sharks may not have to trade for a solid third line center after all. Dominic Moore, brought in from Tampa Bay near the close of the 2011-12 season, proved that he may be able to fill the void left by Handzus. The Sharks penalty kill It remains to be seen if Wilson will resign Moore, butTodd McClellan’s decision to put in Moore over Handzus shows a vote of confidence. Wilson can either try to move Handzus for picks or buy out his contract. I’m hoping the first option pans out.
#4. OUT: COLIN WHITE
This is another no-brainer for Wilson. Like Handzus, Colin White was never able to fulfill the role he was brought into. Wilson saw him as a veteran D-man who could help prune the talents of Jason Demers and Justin Braun. After a dismal start to the season, White regained some of his previous skills midway through the year. However, he struggled to find a consistent game, and may have done more harm than good for the young talent on the Sharks defense.
It’s hard to fault White. The Sharks have been trying to fill the sixth/seventh defensive slot for years. Players like Sandis Ozolinsh, Niclas Wallin, and Alexi Semenov have been brought in by Wilson in the past and, like White, were unable to fill the role. It’s unique and difficult position to fill, but with Jason Braun in need of another season of development, the Sharks need desperately need someone to help round out their bottom-level defense.
IN: Mike Lundin, MIN.
Some might say Braun is ready to take up the third pairing, but as I stated above, I believe he needs one more year. Sharing the spot with a defenseman like free agent Mike Lundin would be perfect to Braun’s development. A skilled, able penalty killer, Lundin had a limited role with the Wild last season after a solid ‘10-11 outing with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Playing on the Sharks would not only allow him to further his skills, but give the Sharks a chance to develop Braun further without worrying about the sixth slot.
#3. OUT: DOUGLAS MURRAY
This isn’t a move that I want to see happen. Douglas Murray is my favorite current Shark. I bought his jersey at the beginning of the season this year. I even splurged and got an authentic jersey, too. Thing wasn’t cheap. But you know why I spent the extra money? Because Murray is exactly what the Sharks need. A hard hitting, enforcing, dominating physical force on the blue line. His ability to knock the Christ out of someone on the ice night after night is just breathtaking (literally.).
However, defense is a game of pairs in hockey, and unfortunately, Wilson doesn’t have a player to match Murray’s physical style of play at the moment. After being forced to regulate him to a more traditional defensive role in the wake of Colin White’s failure, McClellan took a lot out of Murray’s confidence as a physical defenseman by forcing him to carry the puck more.
It honestly hurts me to see him go. Part of me wants to see him stay on board as a potential third line pairing with Demers, but at $2.5 million/year, both he and the Sharks deserve better than that. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Wilson trades Justin Braun for Ovechkin. Maybe he trades Boyle to Anaheim for Bobby Ryan and an all-you-can-eat buffet trip with Bruce Boudreau.
It’s the modern day NHL. Anything’s possible. But unless Wilson decides to move one of his defensemen (which I doubt he will), Murray won’t be back on the team next season.
IN: Brad Stuart, DET.
Wilson all but sealed Murray’s fate last week with the signing of Brad Stuart. It still remains to see who he’s paired with, but I’d like to see him and Burns together on the ice, and let Boyle and Vlasic get reacquainted (although McClellan will probably start off with Boyle and Stuart paired to get him used to the system). I’m still not sold on the deal, but I’m excited to see someone balance out the blue line.
#2. OUT: TORREY MITCHELL
Torrey Mitchell’s tale is a sad one indeed. After suffering a severe leg injury during the 08-09 season, the once-speedy center began showing signs of fatigue, struggling to keep up with plays and often falling victim to turnovers. A once-promising second line center, he was reassigned to the third and fourth lines to eat up minutes and serve on the PK. And while he has played a fairly consistent effort in this role over the past three seasons, he was never able to fully regain the stride that made him such a powerful force on the Sharks.
It hurts. It really, really hurts. I love Mitchell. His ability to score crazy awesome goals is always fun. But aside from scoring a highlight reel goal every season, Torrey just hasn’t been what the Sharks need- a standup third line penalty killer. And as much as I enjoy free tacos, it’s time to let Taco Torrey find another taco stand in free agency this summer.
IN: Paul Gaustad, NSH.
This is a hard ball to hit, but if Wilson can somehow get Paul Gaustad in free agency this summer, it would be a home run. What Torrey lacked in size, Gaustad makes up for in spades. At 6’5” and 225 pounds, the third line center plays a powerful, commanding style of hockey that could not only benefit the penalty kill, but play the empty enforcer role left behind by the likes of Ben Eager and Jody Shelley. However, Paul Gaustad comes with a bit of a price tag on him. The Sharks would at least have to match his $2.5 mil contract from last year, if not add a little more on. And with Dominic Moore and Handzus already in the running for the third line center position, Gaustad’s necessity certainly comes into question. If Wilson could somehow swing Moore, Gaustad, and Winnik on the same line, it would be a potential powerhouse. This move comes down to whether or not Moore resigns and Handzus is able to be moved. If one of those moves fails to happen, the Sharks may need to free up some cap space with a trade. That player should be…
#1. OUT: RYANE CLOWE
I stated earlier that I don’t think moving anyone on the top six is a good idea at this time, especially after players like James Van Riemsdykand Eric Staal being moved at the draft. However, Ryane Clowe possesses an interesting situation. He’s one year removed from being an UFA, and could maybe land an upgrade to the third line. His numbers dropped significantly this past year (from 62 points in ‘10-11 to 45 points in ‘11-12), but his grit and size could attract teams like Ottawa looking for size. While Clowe won’t fetch the likes of a big name, moving him and his $4.0 million/year contract would free up enough space to sign some of the third and fourth liners, and attract a bigger name for the PK (like Gaustad).
The question is, who gets his role if he gets moved?
IN: BOBBY RYAN, ANA.
Oh my god, I’m kidding. No way that guy ever plays for us.
In: P.A. Parenteau, NYI
The Sharks should instead sign free agent P.A. Parenteau. He’s young, abled, and judging by his 1-year, $2.5 million contract last season, he’s an affordable upgrade to the second line that the Sharks desperately need. While Clowe has declined, Parenteau has drastically improved his game. After scoring 8 points (3 G, 5 A) in 22 games in 2009-10, Parenteau broke through in the 10-11 season with 53 points (20 G, 33 A) in 81 games. This past season, he picked up where he left off, putting up 67 points (18 G, 49 A) in 80 games. And all on a two-way contract. Sound familiar?
The most exciting part of Parenteau’s stats are his assist numbers. Parenteau could be the Thornton of the second line, dishing out assists to Couture night in and night out. Couture and Parenteau could make one of the most lethal offensive second lines in the Western conference, made only deadlier with either Havlat or Marleau stepping in to fill the third slot. Out of all the moves Wilson should make this offseason, I think this should be a top priority. But signing Parenteau won’t be easy. Teams like Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Toronto will be lining up on day one of free agency to make a play for the 29-year-old right winger, in the hopes of keeping him in the Eastern Conference. I hope Wilson, who usually refrains from making deals on July 1st, mends his stance for a day and makes a play for Parenteau.
Of course, there are other ways around getting rid of Clowe. Wilson could let players like Winchester (who should) and Winnik (who shouldn’t) walk, and regulate him to a third line role. But again, Wilson’s focus this offseason is solidifying the third and fourth lines. Wilson needs to be extremely careful on who he lets go and who he resigns. To me, Winnik was a standout force on the penalty kill late in the season, and deserves to be resigned. As I stated earlier, Wilson’s primary concern is chemistry, not talent. Winnik’s precision on the shorthanded unit is a necessary part to this team’s success.
So in my perfect world, here’s how the team looks (Courtesy of Capgeek.com):
Joe Pavelski ($4.000m) / Joe Thornton ($7.000m) / Patrick Marleau ($6.900m)
Martin Havlat ($5.000m) / Logan Couture ($2.875m) / P-A Parenteau ($1.250m)
Dominic Moore ($1.100m) / Paul Gaustad ($2.300m) / Daniel Winnik ($0.950m)
Tommy Wingels ($0.660m) / Andrew Desjardins ($0.594m) / T.J. Galiardi ($0.735m)
Brad Stuart ($3.600m) / Brent Burns ($5.760m)
Dan Boyle ($6.667m) / Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($3.100m)
Mike Lundin ($1.000m) / Jason Demers ($1.250m)
Justin Braun ($0.688m) /
Antti Niemi ($3.800m)
Thomas Greiss ($0.588m)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $70,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $59,815,667; BONUSES: $0
CAP SPACE (21-man roster): $10,484,333
Not too shabby.
Blades of Teal ~ The Final Word On Sharks Hockey.