The title may be a little misleading, because I've lost a good amount of faith in out GM over this past offseason.
All that faith, however, is back.
As of Saturday, September 12th, the Sharks are about $500,000 under the NHL salary cap.
As of Saturday, September 12th, the Sharks look like the best team in hockey.
The Dany Heatley deal solves a multitude of problems for San Jose, and makes them arguably the most dangerous team in all of hockey. For the first time this offseason, I feel like the Sharks will be better than they were last year.
This trade is on par with the deal that brought Joe Thornton to San Jose in 2005. That deal, which sent Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, and Wayne Primeau to Boston, was applauded by hockey pundits everywhere. It changed the Sharks from a young team on the cusp to a Stanley Cup contender.
When you look at this deal, you have to add in the Vancouver swap as well, because that's practically the first step. This is what you get:
Sharks send Ehrhoff, Cheechoo, Michalek and a second, receive Heatley, Rahimi, White, and a fifth.That's a steal any way you slice it.
The deals (Thornton and Heatley) are eerily similar. The Sharks lost a young defenseman with upside, a winger with injury history and a little promise, and some salary cap filler. In return, they got one of the NHL's elite players. Sweet.
I'm going to go out on a limb, though, and say that this trade was better for the Sharks than even the Thornton trade. Granted, I love Joe and I think he's a better player (he was also younger when the deal went down), but this deal helps the Sharks in so many ways it's amazing.
First, the Sharks add one of the most talented players in the league, arguably top five at his position. Yes, he's had some personal issues in the past and was only traded because of a very public trade request for unknown reasons. However, he makes the Sharks first line the most dangerous in hockey. Since the lockout, he's scored 362 points, 180 of them goals. We've gone into this countless time before, but, uh... Dany Heatley is good.
Second, although Heatley's contract is pretty huge ($7.5 MM cap hit), the value is much higher than what the Sharks gave up to get him. Michalek ($4.33MM cap hit) was second line winger who underwhelmed and underperformed compared to his contract. Cheechoo ($3.5MM cap hit), although he scored 56 goals in his Rocket Richard winning season, plummeted into a third line role after injuries, diminishing skill, and an ever changing NHL led to an extreme decrease in value.
Third, this deal actually helps the Sharks cap situation. Although Heatley comes at a big hit to the cap (the Sharks are now spending 13% of their cap space on Heatley and 37% on their first line), the Sharks shed their two worst contracts in the trade. Now, with an Olympic level first line, they can probably persuade Marleau to take a contract at a lesser value, resign Setoguchi and Pavelski, and add some free agent help next offseason simply by letting Nabokov and Blake walk. You have to remember, both Pavelski and Setoguchi are RFA's, and judging by what happened this offseason (Kessel and Dubinsky come to mind), no team is going to swoop in and try to offer a huge contract. So I'm guessing those two are pretty safe. That's a crude analysis, but let's just say this... the Sharks cap situation is no worse today than it was last night.
Fourth, as stuffilife just reminded me, this trade all but guarantees that Joe Thornton will have another monster year. After posting more than 100 points in both seasons with the Sharks (33 points in the first season came with Boston), Joe's production dipped to 96 in 2007-2008 and 86 in 2008-2009. The addition of a proven finisher like Heatley with the retention of Marleau on the other wing makes Joe Thornton almost a lock for 80+ assists.
Here's another reason why I like this trade: Doug Wilson added Stanley Cup experience without adding someone who already had a ring. Although this may sound odd, I'd rather have a guy like Heatley who got the final but couldn't finish as opposed to a guy like Blake who has already won. Heatley is going to have a monster season this year: he's gotten his trade, he's with the best team in the league, and he's going to have to prove his critics wrong. That's a recipe for success.
I'm also really surprised that this got done without having a first round pick included in the deal. That might be one of the things that makes this trade so amazing. After losing first round picks the last few years, the Sharks development system has few forwards (outside of Couture and McGinn and now Varone and Ferriero) with any real promise. Keeping the first round pick is huge here.
All in all, this trade makes the Sharks the front runners to win the Stanley Cup. Experts may have picked them to win last year, but in my opinion, this team is the undoubted favorite to win the Pacific Division, the Western Conference, and the Stanley Cup. It's a better team than last years team, period.
Yes, I'm going to miss the guys we lost. Any Sharks fan would. But we've still got Marleau. We still have all our young stars (sans Michalek). We're about to see the best team that San Jose has ever iced.
I can't wait for hockey season to start.