Yesterday was busy for the Sharks. Doug Wilson made a series of trades, acting as a middle man to send Mike Hoffman from Ottawa to Florida and picking up several draft picks along the way.
First, to acquire Mike Hoffman from the Senators, Wilson moved parallel pieces on each side. Let’s look at this piece by piece.
Sharks’ 2020 sixth-round pick for Senators’ 2020 fifth-round pick
This seems hardly worth mentioning on their own, but build toward a larger result. The Sharks moved up to take another fifth-round pick, and with the Senators' clear commitment to getting worse and the Sharks seemingly on their way to building a superteam, the differences in those picks could widen further.
This also leaves the Sharks with no sixth- or seventh-round picks in 2020, but Wilson has two years to make those picks up, if he wants to.
Julius Bergman for Cody Donaghey
In the exchange of 22-year-old defensive prospects, Ottawa wins in that Bergman is an AHL player, with Donaghey having spent last season with the Brampton Beast of the ECHL.
But ultimately? Both are right-handed defensemen who are probably never going to make the NHL, or at their absolute ceiling, will be replacement-level, bottom pairing defensemen. Bergman has been passed over to make the leap to the big club several times over the past couple of years. The Senators may be in a desperate enough position to play him this year, but that says more about their position as a club than his talent as a player.
Mikkel Boedker for Mike Hoffman
It’s impossible to analyze this without acknowledging that the actual return the Sharks received was not, in fact, Mike Hoffman. Initially, it appeared the Sharks were simply replacing one bad contract for a contract that was better earned, but ultimately more money, which would have further limited their free agency availability.
Instead, the Sharks ended up not only shedding Mikkel Boedker’s $4 million contract for the next two years, but they were also paid to do so in the form of moving up a round in draft picks — and that's just from Ottawa.
If Ottawa is full-on committing to tanking, then they’re on the right path. Boedker is more than just nearly replacement-level — he’s hot-and-cold and when he goes cold, he goes “taking-out-your-own-teammate’s-knee” cold. Though he's hit 51-points twice in his career, he can't seem to get there consistently enough to take a gamble on the next two seasons with him.
Wilson had to approach this summer either looking to clear room for younger players — an entirely unpredictable move — or he could make the cap room for a bigger splash in free agency. The bottom line is that Mikkel Boedker (who, again, is a middle-six player at best, and at worst a massive liability) and his $4 million were dead weight on this Sharks squad.
Mike Hoffman for picks
Here’s where this wild story of how Mike Hoffman was a Shark for two hours on June 19th becomes interesting.
Hoffman was considered a toxic asset in Ottawa. His fiancee, Monika Caryk, has been accused of harassing Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda, throughout last year and through the stillbirth of their first son, Axel. These reports have been confirmed by wives of various NHL players and Melinda Karlsson was granted an order of protection against Caryk, making it all too certain that either Hoffman, Karlsson, or both would be traded. Both players were being shopped during the trade deadline back in February.
Senators GM Pierre Dorion confirmed that moving Hoffman was about what he brought to the organization off the ice. In a statement about the trade to San Jose, he said, “Today’s trade showcases our determination to strengthen the future of the team by improving chemistry, leadership, and character in the locker room and on the ice. We are confident it is a step in the right direction for the long-term success of this organization.”
So Dorion has a player on the chopping block that may or may not be a bomb to drop in any given locker room, limiting interest from other teams. It’s been reported that the Florida Panthers had approached the Senators on Hoffman, but that Dorion notably doesn’t like to trade within his division. Panthers GM Dale Tallon says that Dorion was looking for players in exchange for Hoffman and that the asking price was too high, so trade talks ceased.
Florida wants to give up draft picks and the Sharks are missing a few of those. Ottawa wants players and the Sharks have a few contracts that are expendable (sorry Paul Martin).
Doug Wilson saw an opportunity to fill every need of his organization and he took it.
Arguably, could the Sharks have gotten more for Hoffman? It’s possible. Clearly, Tallon isn’t concerned about Hoffman’s character, and has stated that he believes Hoffman and Caryk will fit in perfectly with the Panthers’ locker room. Another GM may have used this to buy low on Hoffman (which, if we’re being honest, is what Wilson did), but with the Panthers clearly being high on Hoffman, there’s an argument to be made that the Sharks could’ve pushed for a prospect.
But everything about being the middle man in this trade was about filling organizational needs. Do the Sharks need players, and especially prospects, right now? Not particularly. Acquiring draft picks allows Wilson the flexibility to draft players over the next three years and continue building the Sharks’ fairly successful talent pipeline, versus a player already in another system, who may have already shown his ceiling.
Another thing to consider is that the Buffalo Sabres received a 2019 first and conditional fourth, plus Daniel O’Regan for pending free agent Evander Kane. Both Kane and Hoffman are top-line talent, scoring at .61 and .67 point per game over their respective careers. Hoffman is two years older, but is also under contract through 2020, giving the receiving team a little more stability. It's also worth noting that both picks involved for Kane were for a future draft.
A 2018 fourth-round pick, a 2018 fifth-round pick, and a 2019 second-round pick may not have been the absolute best haul possible for a top-line scorer like Mike Hoffman. But the Sharks needed picks for this year, and they already showed they don’t need a prospect whose ceiling is that of O’Regan.
What does this mean for the future?
The biggest takeaway is that the Sharks have better draft security for the next three years, as well as picks that can be moved for other trades. The San Jose talent pipeline can continue and Wilson can keep finding those nuggets of gold in the later rounds.
The next takeaway is less certain, and could go two ways. The first is that younger players now have those open roster positions available to them to get their feet wet in the NHL and next season has the tiniest bit of a question mark over it, as the team gets younger and less experienced.
The other direction is that the Sharks use that cap space and roster spot to make a big move in free agency. It’s no secret that San Jose is a top location for a lot of players — the club has a fairly consistent history of making playoffs and performing well, and despite never winning a Stanley Cup, the city itself is a pretty big selling point.
John Tavares has a pretty little price tag on his head. While the Sharks have been part of Tavares-related rumors for awhile now, clearing out $4 million in cap space to lure the top-line center is a potential move toward building a second Bay Area superteam.
Everything about this trade suggests that Doug Wilson has his organization's needs at the forefront. The Sharks needed draft picks for this year, Wilson got them. The Sharks have a surplus of average players, Wilson got rid of one with a hefty contract attached.
The number one thing this team needs right now is a young, elite top-line center. If Wilson has made it clear that he's thinking about the organization's immediate needs, is it so crazy to think that San Jose is on John Tavares' radar?
Per CapFriendly, the Sharks currently have a projected $11.5 million in estimated cap space, with the current salary cap. TSN's Bob McKenzie reported today that the cap will like be close to $80 million, giving the Sharks around $15 million in cap space for the coming season. Some additional moves will need to be made to get Tavares in comfortably at the $10-11 million contract he'll be looking for, but this is certainly a start.
And if the Sharks lose out on the John Tavares sweepstakes, Wilson hasn't done anything the Sharks can't absolutely deal with. In that way, it's the perfect scenario.
Sorry for ever doubting you, Doug.