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The Daily Chum: Who should the Sharks send down when Tomas Hertl returns?

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Hint: Not Timo Meier.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As Tomas Hertl’s return nears, eyes turn toward the Sharks’ salary cap. It’s not pretty. San Jose is $339,767 over the cap right now and can (thankfully) spend another $2,649,428 thanks to the relief the Sharks are getting from Hertl sitting on Long Term Injured Reserve.

When he rejoins the team, San Jose no longer gets that benefit and needs to clear space to make room for the forward. Right now that means clearing $339,767; so who is going to get the bad news and a short road trip to the Barracuda when Hertl comes back? Let’s look at the candidates.

Timo Meier

What the? Really? People are talking about this? What the f... alright. Yeah, the Swiss rookie has four points in 14 games and two of those came in Monday’s win against the Jets but you’re telling me you want him sent down to get more seasoning with the Barracuda? For what?

Once a player has proven he’s too good for the AHL (Meier’s 0.88 points per game with the ‘Cuda has) I’d rather see the player learn in the NHL if there’s a spot available (and there is). And if we can expand our brains just a little bit and talk about Meier’s underlying stats we can see he’s taking a ton of shots and is ninth on the team in individual scoring chances per 60 minutes according to corsica.hockey. He’s good and he should stay.

Micheal Haley

This is tricky because while Haley makes a small enough salary ($625,000) to be eaten up in the AHL, I doubt head coach Pete DeBoer sends him down for a couple reasons. First, DeBoer doesn’t see Hertl and Haley as like players. Haley doesn’t play center and isn’t a scorer so how could he lose his job to one — ya follow? Especially not to a player who won’t see any fourth line time.

No, if Haley falls out of the lineup, it’ll be as a result of a move that comes after Hertl’s return; not as a direct result of it. So say Hertl takes over as the third line center, bumps Chris Tierney to the fourth line and that moves Wingels to the left wing and that moves Haley out of the lineup and down the Barracuda... that’s possible. But then there’s the salary, which brings us to the most likely candidate.

Tommy Wingels

I’ve written this story before, so I’ll keep it brief. Wingels makes sense not because he’s the worst player on the roster (he offers more than Haley because he’s a better possession player and scorer while offering similar grit/grind) but because he makes more money. Wingels is owed $2.475 million this season, a sum far greater than his value to the Sharks (no shade, go get you some Tommy) and the best case scenario for San Jose is he gets claimed off waivers.

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, there’s almost no chance he ends up back with San Jose next year. Keeping that in mind, even if the Sharks only bury $925,000 in the AHL by sending Wingels down they’re still saving a vital $300,000 by sending him down instead of Haley. That’ll make it worth it for general manager Doug Wilson when it comes for this decision to be made.

Of course none of this protects Haley, nor does it protect anyone else. Danny O’Regan keeps pounding at the door in the AHL as does Tim Heed and Nikolay Goldobin. Those are guys making very reasonable money and who could do a job for the Sharks right now. If Wilson can unload some salary and bolster the roster in other areas at the trade deadline, he’ll absolutely do it.

But that’s just speculation — one move at a time.