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San Jose Has a Big Chance to Embrace the 'Shark' Tank

The San Jose Sharks look to be trying to sell assets ahead of the trade deadline. Adam Proteau discusses this huge opportunity to add to the future.
Erik Karlsson and Tomas Hertl

For years and years, the San Jose Sharks were the model of consistency. Under longtime GM Doug Wilson, the Sharks had an untouchable core of talent – including star forwards Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns. They were a regular presence in the deepest parts of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

However, for the past three seasons, the Sharks have struggled to ice a competitive team, and they haven’t made the post-season for three straight years – the longest playoff drought in their 30-season history. Wilson has moved on from the GM position, and longtime NHLer Mike Grier was hired this past summer to guide the Sharks out of the muck and get them back on the road to being an elite team again.

Grier has a number of high-profile assets to move before the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline. And it’s incumbent on him to not hang on to emotional connections to his core players, because those core players simply are not getting the job done.

Grier began the process by shipping Burns to Carolina in the off-season, and he still has valuable defensemen that should be on the trade block. First and foremost in that regard is star D-man Erik Karlsson. In the flat-salary-cap NHL era, few teams have the capacity to take on Karlsson’s $11.5-million cap hit for this season and the next four seasons, but this is where Grier needs to be creative and retain a portion of Karlsson’s salary to make a trade feasible.

And Karlsson isn’t the only blueliner Grier could move. Right-shot defenseman Matthew Benning is under contract at a very reasonable $1.25 million for this season and the next three years. At 28 years old, he will not be in his prime when San Jose finally turns the corner competitively.

The same goes for Sharks forwards Nick Bonino (34 years old and an unrestricted free agent at season’s end) and Tomas Hertl (29 years old but signed at a cap hit of $8.31 million through the 2029-30 campaign). 

Hertl will be more difficult to move, but he’s also got cost certainty, making him attractive to a team like Seattle with the long-term cap space to fit him in. 

Center and captain Logan Couture, 33, is likely going nowhere. But the most intriguing potential trade target up front for the Sharks is 26-year-old winger Timo Meier, who will be a restricted free agent this season, and whose salary of $6 million this season is going to get a healthy rise. Meier will be an expensive acquisition, but Grier should be able to acquire high draft picks and above-average prospects for him.

Finally, in a marketplace with few dependable goalies on the trade block, the Sharks have 34-year-old James Reimer to shop around. Like Hertl, Bonino and Karlsson, Reimer has one form of a no-move/no-trade clause in his contract, but Reimer is in the final year of his contract that pays him a very reasonable $2.25 million, and he would be a solid depth pickup for any potential trade partner.

The Sharks are not making the playoffs this year, and they’ll be in tough to make the playoffs next year. This is why the status quo is not an option for Grier. He has the backing of ownership to tear down most of the roster and start again. 

San Jose may wind up winning the Connor Bedard draft sweepstakes, and that player would certainly accelerate their rebuild plans. But even if they fail to land the No. 1 draft spot, the Sharks will probably get a foundational player to add to their mix. whether that's Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson or another top prospect. Moving out their veterans, and suffering through the rest of this miserable season for them, seems to be the ideal route to genuine Cup contention down the line.

Grier has a little more than five weeks to make major alterations to his team. He can’t come away from the trade deadline with nothing to show for the assets he’s selling. He needs to hit a home run, help other teams in the short term and lay the groundwork for success in San Jose a good long while from now. 

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