The NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 24 at 12 p.m. Pacific Time, which means we have just a few days to see what General Manager Doug Wilson has planned. Wilson always seems to have an ace or two up his sleeve and I can’t imagine this year is much different. Especially considering he has some cap room to work with and might be able to take on a huge expiring contract, according to CapFriendly.
It has been a season to forget in San Jose.— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) February 15, 2020
However, with Hertl and Karlsson shut down for the season, the #Sharks now have over $17M in LTIR space that they can spend.
With so many teams up against the cap, SJ can now take on expiring contracts for teams in need of cap space. https://t.co/63llddw5TR
With that much space, I can definitely see Wilson making something happen and if he does, I can see some of these guys involved.
Patrick Marleau/Joe Thornton
I’m grouping the two of them together because I think that if a trade happens it will be because one or both want a shot at lifting the Stanley Cup. I imagine Wilson will do whatever it takes to make it happen for either guy.
I’d like to see it happen too, because the Sharks are clearly out of the playoffs and it’s likely this is Thornton’s last season. I’m still thinking Marleau will come back next year. Of course, if either raise the Cup, I think they hang up their skates.
I think a lot of people are speculating that a reunion of Thornton to Boston would be storybook. I could picture Marleau offering the Colorado Avalanche just what they need.
For my money, no matter where they end up, I’m hoping it will be in opposite conferences. That way I can cheer for both at least until the Stanley Cup Final.
It’s been floated by The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz that the Sharks may want to consider keeping Melker Karlsson around to try to shore up what’s sure to be a weak bottom-six next season, but I feel like they’re going to get the best return they possibly can on Melker Karlsson before the trade deadline. General Managers know that special teams win and lose playoff games. A guy like Melker Karlsson is just what a team will need to make sure their penalty kill is running at top efficiency. If ever there was a time to sell, it’s now.
You know what you’re going to get from Melker Karlsson and that’s both a blessing and a curse. He’s nothing more than a bottom-six forward in this league and he never will be. But he’s reliable and that’s something you can count on. For me, it’s better to get a few draft picks (or just one) for Melker Karlsson and get a younger and cheaper guy in there for next season.
The Sharks are in a salary crunch and if they weren’t willing to pay Joonas Donskoi more to stick around last off-season, I don’t see why they’d pay Melker Karlsson to stick around this off-season.
Now that the easy ones are out of the way, let’s get a little more controversial.
There are readers out there who are going to tell my I’m wrong, but here’s where I’m at with Kevin Labanc. I’ve watched Labanc play more than most hockey scouts. I don’t have the eye that they do, but quantity has to count for something. I’ve determined that Labanc is at best a middle-six forward, probably a third-line guy. He might make an extra jump, but right now he’s making just enough bonehead moves that I don’t think he’s going to get there and become a top-six player.
Cup contenders are going to put a lot of stock in what Labanc did in Game 7 against the Golden Knights. A four-point game with a goal and three assists on the power play is something you don’t easily forget. He was a power play stud and maybe he will be this season for a playoff contender.
But he’s on a really easy to swallow contract.
This is a sell high situation for Wilson. Labanc is an RFA on July 1, so he’s not the rental like some of the other options out there. It wouldn’t be a throwaway trade for teams. I imagine if Wilson put it out there that Labanc is available, he would get more than a few phone calls. Given the good contract and the RFA status, Wilson could get a pretty good return too.
This is not going to be a popular choice, but it might be the only solution for Wilson. Right now, the Sharks General Manager has $26.5 million tied up in three defensemen. That’s close to one-third of the allowable salary under the current cap of $81.5 million.
Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic both have No Movement Clauses in their contracts. That means unless they approve a deal, that deal is dead.
Burns, meanwhile, has a modified No Trade Clause which means at the start of every season he submits a list of three teams to which he’d accept a trade. If Wilson can work out a trade to one of those teams, Burns has to go.
In this scenario, I would guess that the three teams Burns submitted are all competitive teams that have the ability to contend for a Stanley Cup in April. I also imagine that if you called up a general manager and told the guy he was on Burns’ three-team list, that general manager would listen to anything you have to say.
Add this to the fact that the Sharks have a ton of cap space because of injuries this season and it’s possible Wilson could work a deal to eat a bad contract, move a Burns’ large contract the other way and get a great prospect or a few draft picks in the process.
The Sharks are in salary cap hell; they need another scoring forward. The only way to get a quality, top six-guy is to move salary out. The only way I see that being possible for Wilson is if he moves the one defenseman he can, Brent Burns. I would be super sad to see the Wookie go, but I also know it may be the best and only option for the team in the long run.
And as pure speculation goes, The Dallas Stars seem like an appealing stop for Burns. He has a ranch in Texas, so we know he likes the Lone Star State. Plus now, longtime friend and teammate Joe Pavelski is donning a green sweater, so Dallas may have already made it onto Burns’ three-team trade list.
My dream scenario
This one has no basis in reality, but it is my dream scenario. Wilson keeps Burns and convinces Marc-Edouard Vlasic to waive his NMC and head back home to Montreal to play for the Canadiens.
This is a million to one chance which is why I didn’t really include it in my list, but a girl can dream.