With Sharks Preseason Complete, Roster Decisions To Be Made

[Update 3:30 PM]: The Sharks have signed Brad Winchester to a one-year, $725,000 contract.

[Update 10:40 AM]: Justin Braun, Benn Ferriero, and John McCarthy have been sent to Worcester.

[Update 11:38 AM]: Cam MacIntyre, Mike Moore, Frazer McLaren, Harri Sateri, and James Sheppard (who will be placed on LTIR) are the four remaining players left on the team who are not expected to be starters. Both Moore and MacIntyre would have to be placed on waivers in order to be assigned to Worcester.

After going 5-1 in the preseason San Jose is hitting the ground running heading into opening night. Lingering offseason injuries to Antti Niemi and Martin Havlat don't seem to be serious at this point-- the general vibe from David Pollak of Working The Corners seems to indicate that even if Havlat and Niemi miss the home opener they will be ready to play in time for the Sharks second game against Anaheim-- and the Sharks have managed to stay healthy throughout all of their six games. In short, Todd McLellan's life as a Head Coach is pretty easy right now.

This week it's about to get a little tougher.

With the preseason campaign complete, McLellan and the Sharks braintrust must decide on which players stick on the roster in San Jose and which players get sent down to Worcester. Heading into camp two and a half weeks ago the Sharks knew their would be stiff competition for roles on the third and fourth line, with any number of players being candidates for the role. But as the dust settles and roster decisions have to be made, there looks to be some clear front runners heading into the week.

The biggest story has been Tommy Wingels, who has scored three goals this preseason and shown a strong mental presence on the ice. Once considered a long shot to crack the roster, Wingels is the definite favorite for a third line spot alongside Michal Handzus and Torrey Mitchell. His knack for scoring goals in the preseason definitely helped him receive attention from the Sharks coaching staff early in the running, but his dedication to the defensive end and strong work down low is what has allowed him to stick.

Andrew Murray and Andrew Desjardins have seemed to solidify their spots on the Sharks fourth line, and will be fixtures on the penalty kill to start the season. If one can assume Wingels will start the year in San Jose (which all indications seem to point to), that leaves one spot open on the lineup card heading into the year.

According to a tweet from Bob McKenzie however, that spot may already be taken:

Nice story unfolding in SJ: looks as tho Brad Winchester, in camp on a PTO, has earned a 4th line spot, pending negotiation of a contract.

>> TSN's Bob McKenzie

Winchester made $700 K last season with St. Louis and $800 K the year prior-- considering he's on a tryout contract with the club, those negotiations shouldn't be too time consuming. If McKenzie is correct (and he always is) in saying that Winchester has earned a fourth line spot, expect news of that announcement to come early this week, possibly today.

This of course leaves Jamie McGinn and Benn Ferriero without a defined role on the team, putting the Sharks in a situation where two playoff starters last season could be out of a full-time role to start the year. With Havlat still a question mark for opening night, Ferriero could play on the second line where he's been practicing during the preseason and get a final chance to make himself a commodity the Sharks can't do without-- doing so is easier said than done however, as when Havlat gets back that top-six spot gets filled. The third and fourth lines have begun to formulate an identity that Ferriero's skill set doesn't necessarily work with, creating a situation where the Sharks may be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

And then there is the waiver status, which will likely play a factor in the process.

With a total of 65 games played at the NHL level during regular and postseason play, the 24 year old Ferriero has all but used up his waiver exemption status when traversing from the NHL to the AHL and back. According to CapGeek's waiver calculator, Ferriero is exempt from being put on waivers for the first five games this season. Once he hits five games played in 2011-2012, Ferriero would have to pass through waivers in order to make it to the AHL-- in other words, 29 other teams would get the opportunity to claim him.

Jamie McGinn is an even more precarious position when it comes to being exposed to the waiver wire. According to CapGeek's waiver calculator, McGinn is not exempt from waivers this season and, if sent down to Worcester, would be subject to claim from 29 other teams in the League. Considering his age (23), skill set (strong forward with scoring upside), and NHL experience, it stands to reason that another team would put in a claim for McGinn if he became available and they had their 50 man roster in order.

With both of these situations in play for the Sharks, it makes sense to do two things. The first is to keep McGinn on the club in a healthy scratch role or pursue a trade-- considering the team expected him to play on the third line this upcoming season, a trade seems unlikely at this juncture. Wingels had an excellent camp and deserves to take a stab at the third line to start the year, but whether or not he can compete at the NHL level over the course of 82 games or use more seasoning in Worcester is a question that will be decided as the season moves onwards. McGinn is a fine Plan B in that regard. Furthermore, with the amount of cap space the Sharks have this season, there is room to spare to carry an extra body-- McGinn fills the gap to start the year and gets an opportunity to crack the lineup full-time as the season progresses.

The second move here is to move Ferriero down to Worcester before he hits his waiver exemption limit. If Havlat isn't healthy for the home opener, Ferriero plays. But if Havlat's recuperation drags out into mid-October, Ferriero still gets sent down in order to get himself as many reps as possible in the minors. There will likely be a point when Ferriero is called up for good this season, either due to injury or because he'd be better served in San Jose. but that only makes sense later in the year; you get him more ice time in Worcester and avoid a waiver claim by sending him down before the five game mark this season.

The Sharks have some decisions to make this week-- look for cuts to come quickly, with some probably taking place today. We will update this story at the top of the page as news breaks.