Sharks head to Tampa as trade winds dominate the news



4:30 PST
31-17-6, 68 points 24-26-8, 54 points
3rd in Western Conference 13th in Eastern Conference

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It seems like the whole hockey world has been focused on one thing this week. The waiting game has absolutely consumed everyone, Twitter is a-twitter, it's nutty.

Don't worry, though. Sharks-Lightning is finally here.

Kidding aside, this game doesn't really hold too much significance in the grand scheme of things aside from the fact that there are two points on the line. The bad blood between Dan Boyle and his former team has long since diluted and Tampa doesn't have much of a chance of securing a playoff spot, so there's no storyline to be written about them possibly meeting down the road.

Of course, there are always trade rumors, which practically equals instant readership this time of year. While the Sharks haven't been linked to Tampa Bay in weeks past, there are a few guys here that could move before February 27th. So allow me to take the easy way out...

Unlike in Columbus, where the marquee guys are generating all the talk, Tampa Bay isn't going to be selling any of their stars. Steven Stamkos is, arguably, the best player in the NHL and he's not going anywhere. Vincent Lecavalier is far from his days as an elite NHL player, but he's stuck in Tampa because his contract makes him pretty hard to move. Victor Hedman is staying. Martin St. Louis means too much to the franchise. They'll be keeping their big guns in the hope that they'll be able to fix the glaring problem in net over the offseason and make a run next year. Their goaltending has really been the death knell, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that a dependable presence there could put them right back in the playoff hunt.

There are, however, a few guys who they would consider moving. Ryan Malone has been a popular name recently, but something about his contract (3 years, $4.5 MM per) makes me hesitant to believe that he'd be on the move. I'm looking more at guys like Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell and Dominic Moore.

Let's start with Moore. Only nineteen points on the season (4 G, 15 A), but he does play a decent amount shorthanded, which would be attractive to San Jose. His Corsi numbers are actually quite good, coming in among Tampa Bay's best in that metric. He's on an expiring deal, wins a good amount of face-offs (55.7%), and would cost little. Interesting play.

Teddy (or Edward) Purcell has a year left after this one, and he's a bit more expensive than Moore. He does have a bit more scoring pop as well, putting up 33 points (13 G, 20 A) this year. He's still part of Tampa's younger bunch, and may be attractive to keep around. For San Jose, he'd solve their depth scoring issue and could fill in on the top lines in case of injury, but he doesn't PK in the slightest. I'd still like a guy who plays some shorthanded.

If Tampa really wanted to jettison some young talent, Steve Downie could be on the move. Downie would require some decent assets to acquire, and although San Jose's young depth in the goaltending department makes them seem like a fit, it looks like Yzerman wants a more immediate solution that helps them compete next year. Alex Stalock and Tyson Sexsmith don't achieve that goal. Downie has 11 goals this year, up from 10 last year and climbing, but he only played in 57 games last year so he's on about the same pace. He's an RFA after this season which means there is no real need to move him. Downie could help the Sharks get younger, but like Purcell, he doesn't PK. Not a perfect fit.

Problem is, there aren't a whole lot of perfect fits out there right now, and the pool of available players is shrinking by the second. I really liked Frans Nielsen, but he re-signed with New York. Tuomo Ruutu is hurt and not moving, P.A. Parenteau is likely staying as well. Not a whole lot of options.

The three guys I mentioned have one thing going for them: they're better than Mike Knuble. So I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye on them during the game tonight. Well, after I check the latest Rick Nash news.

Prediction: Sharks in 4-1. Goals by McGinn, Couture, Burns and Colin White.