It’s officially silly season in the NHL. Fake twitter accounts with bogus trades swirl amid Friedman bombs and “insider” scoops. Everyone starts overestimating their favorite team’s depth, until Victor Rask is traded for Nino Niederreiter and you think, maybe it’s okay to float those garbage trades around on Twitter after all. No matter the noise of the encircling chaos, we can usually count on Doug Wilson to at least try something. This something has, lately, manifested itself in the way of first-round picks and prospects sent away for scoring wingers.
Given the team’s current trajectory, it makes sense. Futures do no good for a team teetering on the sill of its championship window (though I must note, we’ve been saying that for years. Still they return, playoff bound, again). Given the draft is an inefficient at best way to acquire good players, Doug Wilson might as well keep spending what little currency he has in the way of draft picks and prospects, so long as they return a skilled NHL player today.
Luckily, there are quite a few potential options — if the TSN Trade Bait board is any indication — among forwards with expiring contracts. While forwards aren’t the only option for trade returns, today they will be our focus. The team is dealing from a place of strength thanks to the emergence of Radim Simek and can address an area not necessarily of weakness, but in need of some upgrading.
Of trade chips, the Sharks have few. But, Doug Wilson’s stockpile is not totally bereft of intriguing options. Here are who might make sense:
- Second- and third-round picks, this year and next
- A first round pick in 2021
- Joakim Ryan: Once Burns’ steady partner, Ryan seems to have fallen to the bottom of the team’s defensive depth chart. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s injury makes it a bit less likely Ryan gets dealt, but lil’ Joakie is the odd man out right now, is young, cheap and only has a contract through this season. Ideal for contenders and rebuilders alike.
- Kevin Labanc: Once an option alongside the Joes, Labanc has lately spent his precious few minutes skating with the likes of Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson. He’s young, is on his entry-level contract still, and is a decent contributor at 5-on-5. The Sharks probably can’t re-sign him next year anyway, so now is the time to leverage that fact for an upgrade among the forward corps.
- Dylan Gambrell: There is likely a reason Gambrell was an overage draft pick to begin with, never had a ridiculous college season, and has now been beaten out multiple times for the team’s fourth-line center role. One edge teams have is knowing before other teams when their own prospects aren’t going to make it. If such is the case with Gambrell, Doug Wilson would be wise to see what he can get with him as a trade piece.
- Justin Braun: It’s unlikely he’s traded. He’ll be 32 soon, so he doesn’t make sense for rebuilding teams. He has two years left on his contract, so a team wont come calling for him as a rental. A contender interested in picking up the extra year of his contract probably isn’t also inclined to trade away one of its better players. From the Sharks’ perspective, the trade makes sense: Moving Braun will clear $3.8 million from the team’s tight cap, and they’ll almost certainly be able to upgrade. It takes two to tango, as they say, so don’t hold your breath here.
There are 45 players on TSN’s list (as of January 18), ranked in descending order of the likelihood they’ll be traded. Twenty-eight of them will be free agents at season’s end, but many of the players with more expensive cap hits — Jeff Skinner, Artemi Panarin and Mark Stone — are probably going to re-sign with their current teams and are too much for the Sharks to afford unless the team moves out salary in the trade. San Jose has $5.1 million worth of deadline cap space, per CapFriendly, so they have some wiggle room. Still, for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll stick with players who have cap hits of $4.9 million and below and are pending free agents.
Gustav Nyquist: Right Wing, 29-year-old, Detroit Red Wings
Reported asking price: First-round pick
Cap hit: $4.75 million
An impending free-agent and older forward on a rebuilding team, Nyquist makes sense as a rental for a contender. Unfortunately for San Jose, Doug Wilson has no first-round pick to speak of until 2021. Still, Nyquist is arguably the best of the players available in the $4-$4.9 million tier and worth bugging Ken Holland about.
Micah Blake McCurdy’s model at HockeyViz attempts to isolate player impacts on 5-on-5 unblocked shots. The 10 percent figure refers to how much more likely the Red Wings have been to score on their unblocked shots as a result of his play. Nyquist doesn’t take many penalties and draws a few more than average. With plus shooting skill to go along with his ability to drive play,
Nyquist is a no-brainer trade target if San Jose can bring down the asking price a bit. Evolving-Hockey’s (Luke and Josh Longgren) regularized adjusted plus minus (RAPM) also attempts to tease out individual contributions to team success. During the three seasons preceding this current season, 413 forwards played at least 1,000 even-strength minutes. Nyquist was a top-100 forward in terms of his impact on team goals, expected goals, and shots. This season, Nyquist has been a top-50 forward in terms of goal and expected goal impact and a top-100 forward for shot impact. The dude is a certified top-6 winger who would be a huge addition to a hungry Sharks team down the stretch.
Carl Hagelin: Left Wing, 30-year-old, Los Angeles Kings
Reported asking price:
Cap hit: $4 million
Carl Hagelin is who the Sharks thought they were getting when they signed Mikkel Boedker as a free agent. Unlike Boekder, Hagelin does more than just skate fast. Though the winger has not produced counting stats this season, he’s still had an outsized impact on the team’s ability to control play at 5-on-5.
Hagelin is great defensively and good offensively. He has a positive impact on penalty killing, which could potentially push someone like Melker Karlsson out of the lineup altogether. According to Evolving-Hockey’s RAPM Hagelin has had a positive impact on his team’s even-strength goal, expected goal and shot differentials this season.
The Kings don’t quite seem to know what they want to do, so the asking price could be weird, and General Managers don’t like to trade within their divisions (or so goes that piece of common knowledge), which means a trade might be rather unlikely. It would be in the Sharks’ best interest if LA decides they must rebuild, as it would put some of the Sharks’ younger, more promising players into play as potential trade pieces. For all his speed, however, Hagelin doesn’t seem to be very strong in transition. The Sharks will have to pair him with the right center/wing combination to get the best out of his gifts.
Patrick Maroon: Left Wing, 30-year-old, St. Louis Blues
Reported asking price: N/A
Cap hit: $1.75 million
These days, Maroon is about an average player. His impact on even-strength goals, assists and shots, per Evolving-Hockey’s RAPM, are centered around zero. According to Emmanuel Perry’s Corsica, Maroon’s impact on 5-on-5 shots relative to his teammates is almost exactly zero, though his impact on expected goals is top-3 on his team.
Patrick Maroon is average or very close to it. Though his shooting percentage on unblocked shots is below expected this season, previous years of data show he’s a better shooter than that. In Maroon, the Sharks would be getting a likely cheap middle-six forward with shooting talent. Maroon is not a game-breaker, but he’s still solid enough to have a positive impact in the right role.
Kasperi Kapanen: Right Wing, 22-year-old, Toronto Maple Leafs
Reported asking price: N/A
Cap hit: $863 thousand
Leafs fans seem resigned to the fact the team can’t bring Kapanen back and re-sign Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. They’re probably right, much like Sharks fans would likely be correct to assume guys like Kevin Labanc, Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed aren’t in the Sharks’ plans next year because of impending contracts for Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier.
In Kapanen, the Leafs have a young winger who was pretty average through his first partial season, but who has exploded into high-impact territory this season. Of the 357 forwards with at least 300 minutes of even-strength ice time this season, Kapanen ranks 14 (just between Nikita Kucherov and Timo Meier) in impact on team goals, 33 in impact on expected goals and 18 in shot impact (per Evolving-Hockey’s RAPM model).
Kapanen plays defense well and is decent offensively. He’s a good shooter with a strong penalty differential and someone Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock trusts with top-5 forward minutes. Kapanen is clearly capable of handling a big-minute role and would likely do well just about anywhere in the lineup.
Jesse Puljujarvi: Right Wing, 20-year-old, Edmonton Oilers
Reported asking price: N/A
Cap hit: $925 thousand
Puljujarvi brings with him perhaps the biggest bucket of buyer beware material. He’s struggled to stay in the NHL through two different coaches, and he’s having his worst season in terms of his impact on goals, expected goals, and shots, according to Evolving-Hockey’s RAPM model.
Looking at McCurdy’s model from the 2016 and 2017 seasons, we see Puljujarvi had a positive impact on his team’s unblocked shots.
When the model starts to accumulate data from this season, Puljujarvi’s offense looks much improved. However, when we look at the Corsica database or Evolving-Wild’s RAPM model to break down Puljujarvi’s performance on a year-by-year basis, it’s clear much of the positives shown in the this chart come from his solid 2017-18 season. Puljujarvi is a player who has flashed ability, but has in part wasted away on a team known for poor player development. We can’t absolve him of all the blame, but playing alongside someone like Joe Thornton or Logan Couture might help spark whatever it was that got the young winger going last year.
Before we conclude, I want to list a few rental players I think the Sharks should avoid at the trade deadline. For the same reasons the players above would likely make a positive contribution to the team, the following players have performed poorly of late and would instigate more buyer’s remorse than gleeful cheers during the final third of the season:
Note: All graphics (not charts) in this article courtesy of our awesome designer JD Young. Catch him on Twitter.