Sharks swimming in new waters during 2011-2012 season
As the sleepy summer slowly putters along towards the unforgiving abyss known as "August", a moment of reflection is in order for those who have moved on from the San Jose Sharks organization. At least seven players will not be returning to the San Jose Sharks next season, and an eighth (Kyle Wellwood) looks unlikely to be re-signed either.
From depth players to top six talent, the Sharks have gone through a fairly significant roster overhaul for next season. Here is where everyone has ended up.
Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi (MIN). Traded to Minnesota along with Charlie Coyle and a first round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Setoguchi and Heatley both played top six minutes last year on a Sharks team that went to the Western Conference Finals. Heatley's disappointing offensive season and Setoguchi's inconsistencies as a goal scorer made them casualties in an offseason where San Jose looked to get better defensively at even strength, with Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson landing number two defenseman Brent Burns and two-way winger Martin Havlat in return for their services. The Minnesota fanbase is excited and optimistic about the acquisitions, lauding the fact that both guys love to shoot the puck.
Expect Heatley and Setoguchi to receive oodles of top six minutes and contribute heavily on the PP with the offensively challenged Wild.
"Acquisition of Brent Burns is a clear win for San Jose" [link], "Sharks Acquire Martin Havlat from Minnesota Wild" [link]
Ian White (DET): Acquired leading up to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline, Ian White's offensive pop from the backend played a big part in San Jose's success down the stretch. He continued that solid offensive play during the postseason, potting one goal, eight assists, and finishing a +3 in 17 games with San Jose. Although the acquisition of Brent Burns made White a piece the Sharks did not need on the backend, his offensive abilities will fit well in a Detroit system that preaches movement and puck control. With Brian Rafalski's retirement opening up a wide hole in the Wings top four, White will be expected to step in and contribute immediately.
Expect White to see top four minutes with the Wings, potentially on the top pairing with Nick Lidstrom, and certainly play top minutes on the power play.
"Ian White acquisition may be Trade Deadline's Best" [link]
Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins (STL): Nichol and Huskins will play a large part in the veteran movement St. Louis focused on during free agency, joining Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott as leaders in the locker room for a Blues team that is young and improving. Although Nichol seemed to have lost a step last season, finishing the year with a smattering of injuries that required surgery this offseason, his ability as a fourth line centerman who is great in the circle and able to contribute on the PK will be a welcome addition to the Blues 18th ranked penalty kill. Huskins was a depth defenseman in San Jose-- while he consistently received criticism from the fanbase for his errors in the defensive zone, his underlying numbers were quite good for a player who was seeing bottom pairing minutes.
"UFA of the Day: Scott Nichol" [link], "Sharks Gameday: Monkey! Knife! Minus The Bear!" [link]
Jamal Mayers (CHI): A solid enough role player on the Sharks fourth line, Mayers was a consistent player who provided some good energy whenever he hit the ice. Although he was not an impact player by any stretch of the imagination, Mayers' defensive ability and decent speed should help the Blackhawks out next season in a limited role.
Ben Eager (EDM): Eager's brand of physicality and excellent hands were always marred by his propensity to take penalties at the most inopportune of times. An above average skater who isn't afraid to lay on the body, Eager's role as an energy player with toughness could fit in with Edmonton provided he delivers on the promise he had as a prospect who was drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft. If Eager can figure out how to stay out of the box and focus on utilizing his skill set to chip in goals for the Oilers third line this contract could end up a steal-- if not, a fourth line role with limited minutes will be his career calling card. We're betting on the latter.
"UFA of the Day: Ben Eager" [link]
Kyle Wellwood (UFA): It's a big surprise that Wellwood hasn't found a home yet, and an even bigger surprise that no NHL teams have called him to inquire about his services. Wellwood was a third line player with the Sharks who saw easy minutes, but his chemistry with the Hellacopter Line (Mitchell, Pavelski) was able to push the play in the right direction earned him full marks from the Fear The Fin staff. Although he doesn't have the size or physicality to play the typical "third line checker" role that many organizations expect out of their bottom six forward group, Wellwood pushes the play in the right direction and would be an excellent addition to any team looking for defensive responsibility to go along with the scoring depth he provides.
We don't have enough good things to say about Wellwood for the role he provides. Although he destroyed his weak comp and had some of the best advanced numbers on the team, Wellwood does not look like he will be offered a contract as the Sharks attempt to get bigger and more defensively oriented on their lower lines.
"UFA of the Day: Kyle Wellwood" [link]
[Update] Niclas Wallin (SEL): For some reason Wallin slipped my mind on the first go around, which doesn't make much sense considering this interview kicked off one of the greatest memes in the history of Fear The Fin. In celebration of his service to the organization, feel free to share some Hamburger Haiku's in the comments. Here is one to get you started:
Farewell D Wallin/ May Sweden bestow to thee/ Heavenly hamburgers
"UFA of the Day: Niclas Wallin" [link]
Who will you miss most next season?