Even in the salary cap era, the playoff window concept is fundamentally flawed. It’s tougher than ever to build and maintain a consistently competitive team, but smart cap management, good drafting and a little luck can keep a team in the hunt for the Stanley Cup year in and year out. So while these next two years represent a peak for the San Jose Sharks, I hesitate to call this the end of a window. It’s just another crest in a ridge.
However, it makes sense to evaluate this year under the context of that peak. If the Sharks can find an upgrade, they should jump at it ... so long as it doesn’t mortgage their long term future. Like any trade, San Jose needs to evaluate the assets it needs to give up versus the upgrade it receives. So keep in mind how good the Sharks are both at the NHL and AHL level right now before begging for a trade.
The Sharks are fourth in fenwick-for percentage; 13th in scoring chances-for percentage; fifth in corsi-for percentage; third in shots-for percentage; and seventh in expected goals-for percentage. All numbers are adjusted for score and venue and are set for even strength by corsica.hockey. That’s a damn good hockey team and upgrades are going to be hard to come by.
The upgrades San Jose can acquire will likely come at a steep price and require giving up either picks or prospects because the Sharks need to shed salary to acquire better players. Of course the Sharks can go the bargain bin route and add a guy like Kyle Palmieri, but here’s why I don’t think that’s such a good idea from a hockey standpoint.
Palmieri plays right wing and with Joonas Donskoi currently out of the lineup he would slot in on the fourth line over Melker Karlsson if Ryan Carpenter plays center. I’m not convinced that would be an upgrade, let alone one worth giving up assets for. Check out their HERO charts from ownthepuck.blogspot.com to see what I mean.
I know this isn’t the only player that has been brought up in relation to the Sharks, but there aren’t many guys who are in San Jose’s budget that would provide an upgrade on the fourth line. If Donskoi isn’t out for long, this becomes a moot point anyway. With a fourth line of Timo Meier - Chris Tierney - Melker Karlsson I find it hard to believe there’s a cheap trade out there that makes for San Jose.
That leaves a blockbuster; or at least a midsize hit. That’s the kind of move the Sharks should be looking for at this deadline. The kind of move that leaves them with cap flexibility for the next couple of offseasons while helping them out in the upcoming expansion draft, if possible.
Puts on baseless speculation hat
The kind of trade I’m talking about is one that sheds a contract like Joel Ward’s or Paul Martin’s, freeing up a spot for one of the young guys with the Barracuda to earn a spot with the team. I absolutely don’t think that’s going to happen, but that’s the kind of trade that I think helps San Jose the most in the long term.
It’s obviously a longshot, but if Doug Wilson makes a trade before the deadline he should do it with an eye on the future more than on April. This team is already good enough for a Stanley Cup run. Now’s the time to make sure it’s good for one next June, too.