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Why the Chris Tanev deal is bad news for the Sharks

The Sharks weren’t going to get one of the top defensemen on the trade deadline market. We knew that. Odds are, General Manager Mike Grier didn’t do more than ask how much it would cost to get Chris Tanev if he was even interested at all. That’s not the problem. The problem is that what the Calgary Flames received in return for Tanev in last night’s deal with the Dallas Stars does not bode well for San Jose’s trade chips as the deadline approaches.

How good is Chris Tanev?

Let’s start out with what Tanev is.

The Athletic’s Chris Johnston said this about Tanev on The Athletic Trade Board: “A right shot with penalty-killing chops, he’s garnered a reputation for playing the game the right way over 12 NHL seasons. That means finishing checks, blocking shots and keeping opponents to the outside — whatever it takes to give his team the best chance at success.”

JFresh Hockey on Twitter summed the defenseman up in one clean tweet.

The projected WAR is especially bad news for the Sharks. Those are his wins above replacement. As in, the odds a team is going to win with him in the lineup versus other NHL options. He’s pretty dang good on defense, especially at even strength and that solid defense helps drive offense the other direction. He’s going to make a Cup-contending team very dangerous.

Trust me when I say the Sharks aren’t icing a single player this season with a WAR that high.

What Calgary received in return for Tanev

This was a three-team deal because the Dallas Stars needed a broker to make the money work. Calgary retained 50% of Tanev’s $4.5 million AAV salary. The New Jersey Devils retained half of that, i.e., 25%, to help make the deal happen.

The Devils received Dallas’ 2026 fourth-round pick to broker the deal.

The Flames received defensive prospect Artem Grushnikov, a 2024 second-round pick and a conditional 2026 third-round pick that hinges on whether the Stars make the 2024 Stanley Cup Finals. The Flames believe Grushnikov can fill a role similar to the 33-year-old Tanev in the future.

“Once he [Grushnikov] was identified as a player we felt a need for, to be able to bring in a kind of defensive defenceman, a great penalty-killer,” Flames General Manager Chris Conroy told the media yesterday. “He’s still young and developing and you’re trying to figure out where he’s going to be in a few years. But he was a guy we see getting a great opportunity moving forward, kind of in a shutdown role similar to what Chris was able to bring at some point.”

The Stars received Tanev and an unsigned goalie prospect in Cole Brady, who is a 23-year-old senior at the University of Massachusetts and has a 4-2-2 record with a 3.04 goals against average.

What could the Sharks offer comparable to Tanev?

Yes, Tanev is 33 and on an expiring contract, but he’s still a very good defenseman. San Jose’s closest proven defensemen to what Tanev can bring to a team are Mario Ferraro or Jan Rutta, and they’re not that close.

Look at what happens when you compare Ferraro and Tanev on Evolving Hockey.

While the two defensemen play similar minutes at even strength, Ferraro’s Corsi Against per 60 minutes (i.e., the number of shots, blocked shots and missed shots the opponent takes in a player’s zone while the player is on the ice) is atrocious compared to Tanev’s. Not exactly what a contending team is looking for.

Rutta’s comparison looks even worse.

Notice that while Rutta’s CA/60 is better than Ferraro’s, there’s no stat where he’s having a positive impact on his team compared to the league average. While he’s defending just below okay at even strength, he’s not generating any offense to offset that defense. What’s more, he’s playing a few minutes fewer per game than Tanev is at even-strength.

Why the Tanev trade is bad news for the Sharks

All of the above is to say the Sharks are operating from a point of weakness on the trade market. The team does not have a defenseman of Tanev’s level to trade, even if that defenseman has some other qualities that a general manager might want, like term on a contract or youth.

Look at what the Flames received in return for Tanev. One would assume that the trade to the Stars happened because it was the best, or close to the best, deal that Calgary could find.

What the Flames received was a high second-round pick – we’re assuming that the Stars will get past the first and maybe even the second round of the playoffs – and a low-level prospect. In his most recent Prospect Pool rankings, Scott Wheeler had Grushnikov tenth in the Stars’ prospect pool and projected him as a 6/7 defenseman. Since the 2024 draft is not considered “deep,” the second-round pick, even high up in the round, is not a terrific return.

It tells Sharks’ fans that the market may not offer a huge return, even for a player like Ferraro. Remember, the Flames retained 50% of Tanev’s contract and still only received two pieces with moderate upside and a potential third piece with so-so upside. Salary retention may not be enough this trade deadline to get San Jose a meaningful piece for the future.

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