Despite an impressive performance by the team's new-look third line (to be fair, it's essentially a different-looking trio on a nightly basis) of T.J. Galiardi, Joe Pavelski and James Sheppard in yesterday's win over Anaheim, the Sharks' most significant roster weakness as we head for the April 3rd trade deadline remains forward depth.
Which is why the Carolina Hurricanes placing former 30-goal scorer Jussi Jokinen on waivers this morning is somewhat intriguing. Despite being mired in a sub-par campaign as far as scoring output is concerned, with just 5 goals and 10 points in 30 games this season, Jokinen has managed to drive play at a high level relative to his Hurricanes teammates playing predominantly on a checking line with Drayson Bowman and Patrick Dwyer. The primary reason Jokinen has struggled to get on the scoresheet this season is awful shooting luck; Carolina has scored on just 5.3% of their shots when Jokinen has been on the ice at even-strength this year and just 6.3% during his power play minutes. Over the three seasons before this one, those percentages were at 8.9% and 11.7%, respectively, so it's unlikely these trends continue.
In fact, from 2009 through 2012, Jokinen was a fairly productive player at even-strength, scoring 1.78 points per 60 minutes of 5v5 play, a rate comparable to what the likes of Ryan Kesler, Mikko Koivu, Max Pacioretty and Shane Doan accomplished over that span. He was also consistently a plus-possession player relative to his teammates despite starting shifts as often in his own end as he did in the offensive zone. Jokinen's blend of speed, offensive creativity and ability to help carry play would come in handy for a Sharks team that ranks 28th in even-strength offense.
Claiming Jokinen would also allow the Sharks to confidently initiate an all-out bidding war for Ryane Clowe as soon as he's healthy. At the very least, Jokinen should replace what little scoring Clowe can reasonably be expected to chip in the rest of the way and provide much more two-way value. Adding the Finnish winger would easily cushion the already-minimal blow(e) of losing Clowe and allow the Sharks to exploit a seller's market to get an attractive package of prospects and/or draft picks for #29.
The biggest downside to claiming Jokinen, and likely the reason he was waived in the first place rather than shopped, is that he isn't a rental; Jokinen is signed through the 2013-14 season at a $3 million cap hit. Assuming his percentages rebound and he returns to being a 45-50 point scorer in addition a useful player in all three zones, that's far from silly money. The issue is that the Sharks are already slated to be in a slightly difficult spot financially next season in light of the salary cap limit declining to $64.3 million. Assuming Jokinen is in the mix and Clowe is gone, the Sharks would have just $7.6 million available to sign 8 players. Of course, that somewhat exaggerates their situation as the eight players they would need to sign would include five bottom-six forwards, 6th and 7th defensemen and a backup goaltender. So it's doable, and doubly so if they were to use a compliance buyout on Adam Burish or look to trade either Martin Havlat or Dan Boyle (which obviously opens up another can of worms entirely) but it would result in slicing cap space rather thin.
San Jose is currently 15th in the league in waiver priority meaning it's unlikely Jokinen even makes his way to them but, if he does, the pros of placing a claim likely outweigh the cons. Jokinen is an above-average possession player with a history of producing offense at even-strength and a terrific record in the shootout, for whatever that might be worth down the stretch. Adding him would allow the Sharks to shop Clowe at the deadline without any fear of harming their playoff chances and gives the coaching staff the option of icing three effective scoring lines of Marleau/Thornton/Burns, Jokinen/Couture/Havlat and Galiardi/Gomez/Pavelski or some variation thereof. There are certainly other depth forwards Doug Wilson could pursue at the deadline but if Jokinen is available for the taking, he won't cost the team any assets and could be a pretty good fit.