Back when the Sharks traded a pair of second rounders and Raffi Torres to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Nick Spaling and Roman Polak I offered this post equivalent of the shrug emoji. After watching Spaling and Polak play for the Sharks for half a season, my take would have been a bit stronger.
The trade was bad for a couple reasons. First, Polak was decidedly not an upgrade over Dylan DeMelo, which I imagine many people smarter (and not smarter) than me said at the time of the move. Heck, I’m not convinced Spaling was an upgrade over Mike Brown.
Beyond that, it doesn’t really matter if the two were upgrades or not. The Sharks gave up a pair of second rounders that could have been used elsewhere. The trade market wasn’t stocked with talent, but I’m inclined to believe Doug Wilson could have done better than Spaling and Polak for a pair of seconds (though perhaps not while also dumping Torres’ contract).
Those players both hurt the Sharks dearly in the playoffs. Polak in particularly was dominated in the Stanley Cup Final by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Spaling looked lost as often as he looked found. Those players alone didn’t cause the Sharks to lose in the Final, but I’m not convinced the trade made the Sharks better which makes throwing away two picks a waste.
Had the trade made San Jose even marginally better last season, I’d be okay with it. The Sharks, even now, are in win-now mode given the age of their top-level stars. That means draft picks must be valued less than a team in a full-blown rebuild. That doesn’t mean prospects are worthless, but it does mean priorities must be shifted.
Tonight, San Jose starts DeMelo on the third pairing with David Schlemko. DeMelo sat in the press box for the entirety of the Stanley Cup Final as DeBoer felt the young defender wasn’t ready for the challenge the Penguins posed. He may have been right; but it was an absolute certainty Polak wasn’t up to the task.
So for the first time, DeMelo and Polak will share the ice while Spaling no longer plays in the NHL. Those second round picks, on in 2017 and one in 2018, won’t be coming back. Hopefully those lost picks will serve as a lesson learned for the Sharks’ front office: Overpaying for depth is one thing; overpaying for refuse is just waste.