The Sharks reportedly have an offer on the table with Columbus for the services of Rick Nash. Assuming this posts before Scott Howson accepts a package of
Stuart, Sturm and Primeau Clowe, Demers and Sateri, I think we should look at an intriguing Plan B: Michael Grabner.
While no rumors have linked the winger to the Sharks, the team's needs read like a checklist for the 24-year old Michael Grabner: Youth? Check. Another scoring threat? Check. Help on the penalty kill? Check. Speed? Oh, that's a big check!
After bouncing around Vancouver and Florida, Grabner took Long Island by storm: putting up 34 goals and 18 assists in 76 games for the Islanders in his first season en route to being a Calder Trophy finalist. Along with those good counting stats, Grabner backed it up with the fourth-highest relative corsi on the team despite starting in the offensive zone only 44.3% of the time.
This past year, however, Grabner hit his sophomore slump. In 78 games, Grabner only posted 20 goals and 12 assists while going -18. His underlying numbers suggest it was not quite as bad it looked. Grabner faced the stiffest competition on the team, and was just barely below breaking even in terms of relative corsi. Once again, Grabner didn't get the luxury of starting in the offensive zone much either: only starting there on 42.3% of his shifts. He was able to finish them there 50.2% of the time, however. Couple that with a low PDO this year, and it seems Grabner may have just been the victim of tough shifts and bad luck.
If the Sharks continue to match Thornton/Pavelski against other opposing top lines, and possibly play a shut-down third line against other team's second toughest lines, some easy minutes could open up for Grabner on the second line. He's listed as a RW, but shoots lefty and has lined up on the left side in the past. Who could play with him?
Grabner - Marleau - Havlat
I like it. No, I love it. I love it so much I'd marry it. We'd get married on top of a mountain. idunno723 would be the ring-bearer and... Oh, sorry. I just really want to see that line in teal. Seriosuly, no one would ever call the Sharks a slow team again. If that's the second line, that means you could move up Couture to play on the left side with the Joes. That line's so sexy I'd cheat on the second line. (That's just a joke, I love you 3M line!)
And if you haven't put the pieces together and noticed who's conspicuosly absent from that top six, it's Ryane Clowe. Clowe does bring grit and puck-handling skills (from the bench), but had a down year himself and isn't fast or very good defensively. Clowe would, however, give the young Islanders a great veteran presence in their top six. The team also just lost P.A. Parenteau to the Avalanche, and Clowe could probably help out more in the top six than Brad Boyes. Grabner is signed for four years at $3 million per, while Clowe has one year left at $3.625 million so neither team would have to work to fit within the salary cap. In fact, it might help keep the Islanders above the cap floor.
Bottom line, if the Nash deal falls through for San Jose (please fall through), I'd take a long look at Michael Grabner. I don't know if New York would be willing to part with Grabner, but if they'd take Clowe straight-up, I'd do it in a heartbeat. A beat of the heart that belongs to that second line.