2012 NHL Trade Deadline: Why The Rick Nash Frenzy Opens Up More Space For Sharks To Work With

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 05: Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets has words with Dan Boyle #22 of the San Jose Sharks during their game at HP Pavilion at San Jose on January 5, 2012 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Doug Wilson is probably the most confidential and tight to the vest General Manager in the sport. Year after year you'll hear players bandied about in the media as guys who could be booking their flight to San Jose, and year after year he'll come up with something so far off that radar you didn't even see it coming.

It's almost reached the point where if you hear a guy mentioned in a trade rumor you can cross him off the Sharks list. Part of that has to do with bargaining power, part of that has to do with price, and part of that has to do with adding to the current roster without subtracting a significant piece. They're all part of the clusterfuck of emotions that thrive around the deadline and they all weigh heavily on the deals Mr. Wilson likes to make.

With that in mind we approach the recent news that Rick Nash was placed on the trading block yesterday in some form or another. Whether that means Howson is listening to deals, actively pursuing deals, or sitting back in his chair while the text messages roll in from around the country is anybody's guess.

It certainly seems like a rash move from here-- with Nash locked up for six more years there shouldn't be a rush to make a decision, especially with a potentially lame duck GM and a small list of teams that Nash would be willing his No Movement clause for (made even slimmer with the amount of cap space teams have to work with)-- but rationality and due diligence are unfortunately not something Columbus has been known for over the past 10 years.

In terms of the price that should be paid for such a stellar and impressive player, I think Doug from Dudes on Hockey really hits the nail on the head. Any deal involving Nash starts with Joe Pavelski and moves on from there, with young roster player sweeteners being added the further down the rabbit hole you get. The Sharks have the cap space to land Nash right now, and probably could make things work next offseason with some creativity, but it's not exactly the move I envision him making with a playoff run upcoming. It feels like an offseason play for the Sharks signed, sealed, and delivered right before the dawn of training camp, not one made at this stage of the year with a bidding war in flames.

Nash's 6 year contract at a $7.8 MM cap hit adds further murkiness to the situation, especially with cash (not cap) assets tied up in players like Martin Havlat, Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle over the next two years. It's easy to forget that this is a business as well as a sport, something that is forsaken in the pursuit of juicy rumors this time of year, and Nash's contract (while worthy of his talents) is one that comes with a price burden San Jose may not be willing to bear.

Long story short? Wilson would have to come up with nothing short of a miracle to make his pitch stick if Howson plays his cards right, meaning you're giving up at least two current roster players in the process and taking on a big-money contract in the process. That is something I don't think fits his MO right now, and while I'd love to think his ability to fleece opposing GM's is something that could overcome these aforementioned barriers, he's a marathon runner who likes to avoid as many hurdles as possible.

And I think the Rick Nash hullabaloo just cleared his way to the finish line.

As we mentioned earlier, one thing Doug Wilson likes to do is avoid bidding wars and target players who can be had on the cheap. With the rest of the League's contenders focused on Nash (and subsequently in a holding pattern with their other deals considering the salary complications), this opens up a wealth of opportunities for San Jose to pick from amongst NHL sellers. These players are cheaper, are able to be acquired quicker, and don't pose long-term salary complications for the team.

Specifically I'm looking at Ales Hemsky, Paul Gaustad, Adam Burish, Ray Whitney, Brad Boyes, and P.A. Parenteau. Players who bring specific tools to the table, are reasonably priced, and most importantly all carry the UFA tag with them heading into the offseason.

Hemsky is clearly the most intriguing name on the list, and while the injury-prone winger has had his share of ailments as of late, he's a player which fits exactly what the San Jose Sharks should be looking for-- a top line playmaker with hands of gold who can push a healthy Havlat down to the third line to increase San Jose's scoring depth while setting the table for Couture and Clowe put pucks into the net. Adding the smooth skating forward up front is something that would really help San Jose's second line in the transition game, and with great underlying metrics to go along with his scoring ability, he's a guy our resident stats heads love as well.

The only downside to Hemsky is his injury history, and with San Jose already dealing with a significant one to Havlat, there might be some more trepidation there than there would be normally. I think with the projected cost of Hemsky's services however (young defenseman + a pick/prospect) that's a gamble Wilson would be willing to take-- he singlehandedly solves all of the issues San Jose has up front and gives the Sharks three legitimate scoring lines with defensive ability.

Next on the list of prototypical top-six scorers is Ray Whitney, who Sharks fans will fondly remember from his time in teal during the beginning of his career. At the age of 39 Whitney may not jump out at you as an impact player, but his underlying metrics have continued to remain in the upper echelon compared to his teammates as he continues to pile up points in the twilight of his career. He isn't the dynamic player Hemsky is, but he fits the needs of San Jose all the same-- a player who could slot into the second or third line, be responsible defensively, and help ease the burden off the Sharks top players when it comes to producing in the spotlight.

Both Hemsky and Whitney's availability depends on contract negotiations and, in the case of Whitney, Phoenix's playoff hopes. In my opinion both get moved before the deadline.

In a perfect world you acquire either Hemsky or Whitney and then parlay your remaining assets to acquire one of the aforementioned Gaustad, Burish, Boyes, or Parenteau. I'm a big fan of what Gaustad can bring to the table (Matt and I wrote an article about him here), and have been a long-time admirer of Adam Burish who would slot in oh so perfectly on the Sharks third line and carry the load on the penalty kill and give them a rugged player who is counted on year after year to do the heavy lifting in the defensive zone.

This past offseason we looked at the prices teams were paying for these types of third line players, coming to the conclusion that San Jose didn't have to rush anything in the early going as they would be able to land guys for cheap at the deadline. Although Parenteau might cost you a bit more than what is shown here, the assets going out for San Jose aren't going to break the bank.

You can toss Mike Knuble (who we covered on Monday) and Travis Moen (a rumor I don't think has much validity but has been mentioned by others) into this pot of players with low cost:


Summary of Role Playing Forwards Acquired Near 2011 NHL Trade Deadline

"Buying" Team Player(s) Acquired
Compensation
Anaheim Ducks
Jaarko Ruutu (UFA)
2011 6th
Anaheim Ducks
Brad Winchester (UFA)
2012 3rd
Boston Bruins
Chris Kelly (1 year)
2011 2nd
Boston Bruins
Rich Peverley (1 year), Boris Valabik (UFA)
Blake Wheeler (RFA), Mark Stuart (UFA)
Buffalo Sabres
Brad Boyes (1 year)
2011 2nd
Vancouver Canucks
Chris Higgins (UFA)
2013 3rd, Evan Oberg (P)
Vancouver Canucks
Maxim Lapierre (UFA), MacGregor Sharp (P)
2012 3rd, Joel Perrault (P)
Washington Capitals
Jason Arnott (UFA)
2012 2nd, David Steckel (2 years)

With a poorer than expected draft class coming this year, and San Jose extremely proficient at finding value players late in the draft, there's no doubt Wilson will be looking to move out picks and prospects while retaining the core of his team.

History is on his side in this regard, and with Whitney and Hemsky flying under the radar as teams line up for Rick Nash, I have a feeling Doug Wilson has the League right where he wants it.

Now watch him go out and land Nash for Niittymaki and a third.

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