It’s safe to assume that at this point, Doug Wilson doesn’t just have Wild GM Chuck Fletcher on speed dial, he has a private line straight to the Minnesota front office. For the third time this offseason, the Sharks made a trade with the Wild, this time acquiring 23 year-old James Sheppard from them for a third round pick in 2013.
There’s some real baggage coming with Sheppard on his way to San Jose; the former 9th overall pick in 2006 hasn’t lived up to the potential that Minnesota saw when they took him so early. In 224 NHL games, Sheppard has just 49 points. Even worse, he didn’t suit up for a single game during the 2010-2011 season after injuring his knee in an ATV accident last offseason.
All in all, you get an under-performing winger with some serious injury questions. Not the prettiest picture, but there are still some reasons why Doug Wilson was keen on acquiring him.
First, Sheppard is young. At just 23, he still has time to recapture some of his potential. Second, he’s a huge kid coming in at 6-2, 210. Third, there is an absolute dearth of forward talent in the Sharks pipeline. Taking a chance on a former top-ten draft pick may not be the worst idea.
Sheppard does have some experience on the penalty kill as well, playing 1.07/60 minutes in his last full NHL season. That should give him a slight advantage over other young forwards fighting to make the team. According to David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News, Sheppard won’t be ready for camp after having some more knee repair done, but the Sharks are confident he will make a full recovery and be available this season, if not the first game.
This isn’t a trade that rocks the foundation of the Sharks, but if all Sheppard needed was a change of scenery, it may prove to be a shrewd move.