All teams are doing roster evaluations with the NHL trade deadline approaching. Hence, Blades of Teal looks at various San Jose Sharks goalie options…
The trade deadline is Feb. 28. While many teams are scrambling to fill needs, contenders can opt for the status quo. Nevertheless, every position is examined and any San Jose Sharks goalie options are detailed in this edition.
The Sharks are at least two games ahead of everyone in the Pacific Division. They play just 12 of 29 remaining games against teams currently projected to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.
San Jose is in this position after its toughest two road trips and toughest Pacific Division contests. It also overcame injuries and possessed enough depth to dump forwards Matt Nieto and Tommy Wingels.
That means the Sharks have additional pieces to move but also enough talent to stand pat. Trades can be disruptive to teams, too. Sometimes no move is the best move.
Internally, San Jose knows more about its injuries and pending contract issues than anyone on the outside. Almost any return is worth a role-playing, pending free agent for general manager Doug Wilson. He will also trade for insurance policies where injuries could be a lasting issue.
Wilson must then consider cost. What can he afford? What is a player’s value?
The Sharks can afford to move depth players more than prospects or picks. They currently have little need of top-tier players and almost certainly could not absorb their cost, anyway.
Thus, a big name only comes to San Jose if a big name leaves. That seems unlikely given this team’s success. It leads the Pacific Division with essentially the same roster that reached the Stanley Cup finals. (Roman Polak and Nick Spaling are the only everyday players missing from last spring.)
Obviously, the Sharks lack a major need for depth talent if they can afford to surrender some. Nevertheless, depth is important for contention because Stanley Cup runs require it. We examine the net first.
The statement that San Jose should not seek changes to its top-tier talent already says, “Keep Martin Jones.” Nevertheless, his importance is worth detailing further.
Jones is one of the six absolute studs for the Sharks thus far. He has carried the second-heaviest workload on the 2016-17 NHL season.
Those 45 starts are one mitigating factor in his evaluation. Another is the defensive tendency in front of Jones to limit shot volume but not quality chances.
Thus, his 27-15-3 record, .919 save percentage and 2.19 goals-against average are impressive. More importantly, he has been the team’s best player on plenty of nights.
Backup Goalie, System Depth
Unfortunately, that has left little for backup Aaron Dell. Even against weaker teams, that performance is most impressive given his limited action: 6-2-0, .930 and 1.97, respectively.
Perhaps he could handle starting duties—maybe even in the Stanley Cup playoffs—should Jones be hurt. It is even possible Troy Grosenick could handle the backup role.
However, chances are Wilson will not want to take that chance. Dell will likely only get two more starts among San Jose’s eight games before the trade deadline. What more would be learned in two or three starts?
The Sharks could use more depth in the system, too. They could shelve Dell if they can get a good price on an experienced backup goalie. Many teams are looking to upgrade in net and their current starters or backups could be affordable.
Could San Jose’s captain be reunited with the goalie with whom he won the 2006 NCAA Championship at Wisconsin? Brian Elliott is a pending free agent the Calgary Flames may not want to sign longterm. They could cash him in if they fall out of playoff contention.
Wilson is more likely to find a cheaper option. The Winnipeg Jets have three backup goalies and would certainly part with Ondrej Pavelec for little.
The pending free agent lost his starting job for the Jets and he can be allowed to walk in July. However, the Sharks may struggle to fit Pavelec’s pro-rated salary under the cap without another move. (Cap information per Cap Friendly as of Monday, Feb. 6.)
In short, Wilson has reason to add a goalie and there is likely to be an affordable option. Thus, a trade for a backup goalie is more likely than not to take place. Who that player is means little beyond their cost unless Jones is hurt.
Whether Dell or his replacement, the backup must do what James Reimer did last spring. If Jones stays healthy and rested, the Sharks can win the Stanley Cup without any changes.