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2022 NHL Draft: 3 major questions facing Sharks

We assume they already have directions on how to get there.

Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks looks on during the second period against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on April 29, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

With the NHL Draft this week, the San Jose Sharks have a ton of questions — excluding if a general manager will be in place by then, as the team is expected to name Mike Grier the organization’s next GM later today. The rookie manager should have it easy, though, as the three-headed conglomerate of Joe Will, Doug Wilson Jr. and Tim Burke have been around long enough to run a draft and know what types of players the organization should be targeting.

When it comes to the actual picks, Sharks fans shouldn’t be too worried, based on the team’s recent drafting track record. The big questions are more about the current roster and what the futures holds with an opportunity to move some players around.

Will the Sharks move a major contract?

The draft is usually a time when trades happen because draft picks are actually at their lowest value. During the season, managers haggle over pick protections and the swapping of late-round picks for a player, while at the draft, general managers are more willing to part with picks to move around the draft board and acquire other players. Their value is lower, because the promise of what the pick could be has reached its end and the value is not longer the promise, but over specific players managers are targeting.

While the potential of the prospect is still there, if you are a manager on the hot seat, would you rather have the prospect who might not contribute for five seasons, or an NHL player who can help your team this year?

San Jose wants to be competitive for a playoff spot this season and it seems that the best way to do that would be to offload a contract (or two) to allow the team to utilize that cap space in a different manner. Plus, the draft is being held in person for the first time since 2019, so it should be easier to pull off a trade with 32 general managers in the same room.

The most likely players to be traded include:

  1. Radim Simek: Simek’s time in San Jose is most likely drawing to a close, especially after reports that either the coaching staff or management lied to him this season. It feels as if both parties will be looking for a fresh start. Simek hasn’t been the same player since his knee injury and hasn’t lived up to his four-year, $2.25 million contract, with two years remaining. The defender could be an asset for a team looking to get to the cap floor, but most likely the Sharks will have to attach a draft pick to move him out.
  2. Brent Burns: If the Sharks want to move on from a massive contract, Burns is the perfect balance of a large contract that still brings some value. Burns does hold all the cards, since his contract includes a three-team trade list, but if he wants to win a Stanley Cup, moving on from San Jose is likely the best option. Burns still has three seasons left at $8 million a year, but if the Sharks retain some of that, it could be more palatable for a team to trade. With the hiring of Pete DeBoer in Dallas, could a reunion between PDB, Joe Pavelski and Burns be in the works?
  3. Kevin Labanc: Trading away Labanc right now would be a bit of a desperate move. The winger’s value is at an all-time low after having shoulder surgery in December and missing the rest of the season. Labanc signed a four-year, $4.725 million deal prior to the 2020 season and has put up 19 points in 76 games. While there are only two years left on his deal, the 26-year-old still has potential to be a 40-point player and turn around the value on his contract.
  4. James Reimer, Adin Hill, Kaapo Kahkonen: One of these goaltender will be on a different team come October. Hill and Reimer both have one year remaining at $2.175 million and $2.25 million, respectively. Kaapo Kahkonen is a pending restricted free agent who is projected by Evolving-Hockey to sign a one-year, $2.488 million contract. A team may wait for the first day of free agency, but the Sharks should be aggressive about trying to move a netminder during the draft, especially with the goaltending market being seller-driven.

Will the Sharks look to recoup lost picks?

The Sharks traded for Adin Hill prior to the roster freeze ahead of the 2021 Seattle Kraken expansion draft. While Hill did show flashes last season, he was up and down and started just one game after Feb. 1 (a 3-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Kings) while dealing with a lower-body injury. In exchange, they sent a second-round selection to the Arizona Coyotes.

To recoup that pick, San Jose could look to trade back from the number 11 spot, picking up an additional pick in the process. However, this year’s draft class is such a grab bag of players after the first five picks, so teams might be willing to just try to wait out other teams for their targets. While many fans want the Sharks to trade back, it would necessitate another team wanting to trade up.

The other way to re-acquire more picks would be to trade a player. Of the players suggested above, Brent Burns would be the only player worthy of a second-round pick. Using last season's trade between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers as a gauge, veteran defender Duncan Keith fetched a third-round pick that would have become a second-round pick if Edmonton made it to the Cup Final (and Keith played top-4 minutes). Keith is older than Burns, with just one season left on his contract compared to Burns’ three, but Burns is a much better player than Keith is right now, so let’s call it a wash.

The Sharks could maybe get a solid pick for one of the goaltenders, since they are mostly on short-term deals, but probably nothing juicy like a high second-round pick. Unless they are making a bold move and moving a player that has been determined part of their playoff-hopeful 2022-23 team, the Sharks probably can kiss the second round goodbye.

As far as other picks, Doug Wilson Jr. has been known to move around the board to gain more picks and still get his guy (looking at you, Thomas Bordeleau) or package picks to get a player who has fallen too far (hi, Brandon Coe), so the expectation is for the Sharks to move around the draft board and try to jump on players overlooked by other teams.

Who do the Sharks take at 11th overall?

After Bob McKenzie’s final rankings were released last week, the Sharks should have plenty of options available at the number 11 spot. I have previously made the case for Kevin Korchinski, Brad Lambert and Jonathan Lekkerimaki, but the Sharks should have plenty of other options, including USNTDP forward Frank Nazar, who is a high-paced, two-way center heading to the University of Michigan this fall. They could look at some of the offensive defensemen like Pavel Mintyukov (Saginaw Spirit) or Denton Mateychuk (Moose Jaw Warriors) to add some more quality talent to their defense.

Regardless of how the draft plays out, the Sharks will have an opportunity to select a great prospect at number 11, as there’s always a team who goes off the board and a player who falls too far, and that player will be an important piece to add to prospect pool — especially the 2020 draft class and William Eklund. San Jose will most likely be picking around a similar position in the 2023 draft and hopefully the younger players will be ready to improve the team and climb out of the creamy middle that they currently are in. Yes, Logan Couture, Erik Karlsson and Thomas Hertl will be older, but the cap sheet will start to lighten, creating flexibility to add to young players like Tristen Robins, Ozzy Wiesblatt, William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau.

When the next wave of players start to make an impact at the NHL level and establish themselves in a few years, this team will look very different and the 11th-overall pick could be another major piece of the Sharks' new core.