What Chicago's Decision to match Hjalmarsson's Offer Means for San Jose

Insert some vague reference to George Sr.'s contract with Saddam Hussein here.

With news coming out earlier today that Chicago is planning to match San Jose's four year $14.0MM offer to defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, here are a few thoughts that should serve as relevant to the discussion. TCY and I discussed the idea of Chicago being able to match the offer on our first podcast-- the only positive I can really take away from today is that I predicted they would match the offer, so there ya go.

Anyways, bullet points:

1) The Sharks still have a first and third round draft pick to play with at the trade table. I've covered the relative uncertainty of the Sharks first round selection in the past, showing that you're looking at about a 33% rate of 200 NHL games played for prospects drafted at the position the Sharks have held picks in the last three years (the 25-30 range). Giving up a first round pick for a player like Hjalmarsson is a great return considering his talent level, and you have to figure that Wilson will be more than willing to part with those picks if it means getting a younger player with more than one year remaining on his contract.

2) This will be the only offer sheet Wilson offers this offseason, unless he goes after another Chicago player. The chances of DW going after another RFA are quite low considering any other player who would be subject to an offer sheet would require an overpayment from the Sharks in order to obtain his services. Chicago is really the lone case where you can get a guy at good value (Hjalmarsson @ $3.5MM per) and have a prayer of actually obtaining him, due to their salary cap issues. Every other team has enough room to match offers such as these. Cross it out.

3) The hope of getting a solid defensive defenseman, and then making a trade for a puck moving one, took a big hit today. Here's the deal with San Jose's blueline-- they need a top three defensive first guy more than they need an offensive first player. This is undebatable in my eyes, for reasons I've mentioned countless times before (high shots against totals, a career year from Nabokov last year that hid a ton of deficiencies etc.)*. With Hjalmarsson out of the picture, you're going to have one helluva time getting both a shutdown and offensive defenseman with the trade chips you have in place.

*Every time I mention Nabokov's year last year it always makes me uncomfortable for one reason-- San Jose's decision to let him go. Just to be clear, I more than agreed with the Sharks decision to let him go due to the reasons highlighted in an article before it became official. It's just that I don't think it is going to be possible for Greiss or Niittymaki to approach a .922 SV% next season behind this type of defense, nor do I think Nabokov would have been able to replicate that effort either. Which means you need an upgrade on the blueline. Does that make sense? Yes it does.

4) The only UFA available who could play in a top three defensive role is one that had some serious concussion issues last year. Willie Mitchell's the name, shutting down opposing forwards is his game. So why hasn't he received a contract? Huge questions on his health. He was supposed to begin skating last week for the first time in about five months, but I've yet to read anything that indicates as much. When healthy he's a perfect fit for San Jose. It's just those health issues that have scared teams away, and if he doesn't return to his previous self, there's no telling where he lands on the depth chart. More on him tomorrow, but he's really the only option here in the free agent market for the Sharks top three.

5) Doug Wilson's great moments have been born of great opportunity. CAPS LOCK SO THIS IS CLEAR-- DOUG WILSON IS ONE OF THE BEST GENERAL MANAGERS IN HOCKEY TODAY, AND I THINK THOSE WHO CALL FOR HIM TO BE FIRED ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST MORANS UNDER THE SUN. HE'S CONSISTENTLY PUT THIS TEAM IN A POSITION TO WIN AND CAN NOT BE FAULTED FOR EXCELLENT REGULAR SEASONS AND DISAPPOINTING PLAYOFF RUNS.

Long live Wilson.

Having said that, the hope that Wilson can magically pull two rabbits out of his hat this offseason and stay under the salary cap (top three defensive defenseman, Tomas Kaberle) ignores a couple things-- the fact that DW has cashed in on some very peculiar situations over the years. Whenever one cites his notorious trade steals, the names Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, and Dany Heatley come to mind. These are the home runs that we've come to expect out of Wilson, but I'm just not sure he can pull off a double bomb this offseason.

Consider the fact that Thornton on the trade block was unknown to many GM's at the time-- Wilson was able to keep his lips sealed during negotiations and not let news leak, which allowed him to nab the Hart Trophy winner at a great price. It's not every day that a number one pick is dealt during the middle of the season, and it remains one of the bigger trades since the NHL Lockout. Dan Boyle was a product of inept ownership in Tampa Bay, when Owen Koules and Len Barrie came into the team and essentially forced Boyle to waive his no trade clause or be shipped to the minors. Dany Heatley had a highly publicized trade request from Ottawa that tied Bryan Murray's hands during negotiations, with Heatley basically choosing his team and forcing Murray to trade him there.

The current climate doesn't really have these types of opportunities available as far as I am aware, making a double whammy of improving both the defensive and offensive output from the backend quite difficult (assuming that the Sharks don't sign "Big Willie Style" Mitchell). It's really one or the other, and while I'd be more than content landing a strong defensive first guy and hoping that Jason Demers can start playing a larger role in the team, the complete defensive re-tool that would be the best case scenario just got more difficult.

6) The Sharks roster player trade chips remain the same. Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray are the guys with the most value on the team. Everyone, including myself, always includes Kent Huskins in proposed deals to clear salary, but I doubt you get anything of value for him besides a low round draft pick. Same goes for Torrey Mitchell, really. Trading Devin Setoguchi is pretty bold considering now you're left with a lack of top six forwards (Heatley, Pavelski, Marleau, Thornton)-- you need to replace that production up top, and with Clowe gone, that has to come from outside the system. It doesn't make sense, both in a here and now sense as well as what he'll give you in the future considering his considerably high ceiling. Setoguchi stays.

7) The good news is that Wilson obviously is working to upgrade the blueline. Always a good thing to see, and something that will provide a point of comfort during what looks to be a long offseason filled with guesswork and cap crunching.

 

Go Sharks.

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