Sharks acquire Ryan Donato from Wild

The young forward will likely slot into the Sharks’ middle-six.

The San Jose Sharks have acquired forward Ryan Donato from the Minnesota Wild on Monday morning in exchange for a third-round selection in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Donato, a 24-year-old forward, has one year left on his two-year, $3.8 million contract.

A second-round selection by the Boston Bruins in 2014, Donato played three seasons with Harvard University, putting up 104 points (60 goals, 44 assists) in 97 games. He joined the US Men’s National team during his junior year to represent at the 2018 Olympic Games, where he scored five goals in five games.

Since then, Donato’s most consistent look at the NHL level has been the 62 games he played with the Minnesota Wild last season and after all of that, his 14 goals and 9 assists might seem underwhelming. At first glance, Donato feels a lot like a player archetype that the Sharks are all-too familiar with — a stunningly average middle-six player who once had lot of promise.

But I still see that promise. Donato played fourth-line minutes with a struggling Minnesota squad last season. Despite that, he still ends up in the positive for several scoring measures:

Would I like those purple bars to be bigger and darker? Of course. But for a young player in his first full season at the NHL level, I don’t hate this.

Donato led the Wild last year with his 16.87 shooting percentage at 5-on-5, his 83 shots at 5-on-5 ranking 11th among skates and eighth in forwards. All of Donato’s 14 goals were scored at 5-on-5 and were the seventh-most goals on the team. Even a cursory glance at Natural Stat Trick sees Donato’s name right in the thick of Minnesota’s top players.

He’s a disciplined player, not taking a lot of penalties, while drawing them at a decent clip. He creates rebounds a gets in on the rush. He plays a smart game while being an excellent shooter. It’s easy to forget that the Wild are the same team that sold Jason Zucker at the trade deadline because that feels so long ago, but this team wasn’t good — but Donato’s impact was.

In the best case scenario, Ryan Donato might be on the edge of a break-out season. In the worst case, he’s a bottom-six player who puts up 25-30 points for a $1.9 million cap hit, in exchange for a third-round pick. Things could certainly be worse.

It’s worth noting as well, that the pick in question belonged to San Jose as part of the trade that sent Patrick Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline in 2020.

Donato was likely a difficult piece for Minnesota to trade and I have a feeling it wasn’t necessarily due to performance. Donato’s contract is back-loaded, despite only being two years. Minnesota got the cheaper of the two years in real dollars, while the Sharks will actually be paying Donato a $2.15 million salary.

It might not seem like much, but many teams are dealing with an internal cap this season, something the Sharks aren’t restricted by. Just yesterday, the Chicago Blackhawks retained 18.4 percent of Olli Maatta’s salary after trading him to the Los Angeles Kings, a difference of around $700,000. Teams will be splitting hairs that finely when it comes to finances and the Sharks are in a unique position to take advantage.

This trade was rumored last week, along with a potential separate trade that would see goaltender Devan Dubnyk land in San Jose. The most recent rumor is that he’s be traded for a fifth-round selection in 2022, and will be finalized today:

Also felt the need to share this adorable picture of Donato with his hometown hero: