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The Sharks, tough decisions and Tommy Wingels

When Tomas Hertl comes back, they’ll pretend they have a tough decision to make.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

I stepped up as the scrum dissipated and Tommy Wingels looked me in the eye, waiting for me to say something so he could finish getting changed and go home after the Sharks lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2015 Stadium Series Game. I had my question ready to go. My first ever question to a member of the San Jose Sharks.

“I know you didn’t get the result you wanted...”

No shit, idiot. They lost.

“But did you feel like you played well enough to win tonight?”

Cut past me some slack here — the Sharks did play well and controlled possession in stretches and I thought they were the better team that night.

“Well we lost, so I guess not.”

That’s the story of the time I made a fool of myself in front of Tommy Wingels, one of the kindest people on the Sharks. I’m lucky it wasn’t in front of a surlier member of Team Teal. It brings me no joy to write articles like this one, but with both Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc looking like lineup staples the Sharks’ roster keeps tightening up.

Wingels will be the first person displaced when Tomas Hertl returns to the lineup and soaks up another center spot. Chris Tierney will move down to the fourth line center slot and Wingels must displace Joel Ward or Melker Karlsson on a fourth line wing. Which one of those guys are you sending to the press box first?

Wingels’ four goals tie him for fifth on the team, but his 12.9 shooting percentage don’t indicate a career renaissance (he has a 8.3 career shooting percentage). San Jose could make him the 13th forward, an expensive proposition, but would prefer to trade him if they can.

The Sharks can instead waive Micheal Haley and Matt Nieto and play a forward short (not desirable). That would bury their combined $1.36 million cap hit, which only goes halfway towards covering the $3 million they’ll take back on when Hertl comes off of LTIR. Did I mention the Sharks have a cap space problem?

If they do trade Wingels, they’ll either have to eat salary or con a bad general manager into eating the $2.475 million he was owed to start the season. That Wingels is a UFA helps the Sharks, but that’s a big contract for someone who’s at best a third liner on a so-so team. Four goals may be fifth on the Sharks, but it won’t be on a team with even average luck.

San Jose can instead bury $950,000 of Wingels’ cap hit in addition to all of Nieto’s $735,000 which knocks off nearly $1.7 million. That gets the Sharks a little closer to clearing the $3 million necessary to make way for Hertl, but ideally they’ll need to both move Wingels’ salary and waive Nieto in order to make this whole thing work.

When this finally happens, and I firmly believe it will, Doug Wilson might call it a tough decision. Nothing could be further from the truth. This decision is easy from a hockey perspective,

Wingels is clearly the player to be forced out in the scenario laid at Wilson’s feet — and don’t fool yourself into thinking he makes decisions based on sentimentality. He’s been perfectly happy to see Dylan DeMelo waste away a part of his prime in the press box so as to make sure a rival doesn’t claim him off waivers for nothing.

This is a business. Don’t let management convince you they care about the personal side more than that.