Demers the Likeliest Shark to Move?

demers

(image courtesy Dinur Blum)

SAN JOSE- Rumors have abound ever since San Jose’s epic collapse that either or both of the Sharks’ longest tenured players in Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton will be traded.

Turns out though all that talk is probably just that, talk.

Thornton’s brother and agent John Thornton has said his brother doesn’t want to leave San Jose as long as the fans still want him. And if you ask around the fan base, a large portion, if not a significant majority hope their star center returns. It’s hard to blame them when you consider Thornton remains a dominant 2-way center, is a lock for 70 points, owns the face-off circle and has an identical playoff points per game rate as Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews (that last factoid courtesy of fearthefin.com).

Marleau, more often the whipping boy in recent years, seems to be less in the rumors. However there was the Brad Marchand for Marleau rumor that was shot down by the Bruins. That said, when you consider the career Shark played a huge role for Team Canada at the Olympics and is still a lock for 30 goals, it would be silly to move him. He often plays a shut down role next to Logan Couture, kills penalties, and is still one of the elite skaters in the league.

Both Thornton and Marleau have full no movement clauses.

Translation: Thornton isn’t going anywhere and neither is Marleau.

Some have reason to believe Joe Pavelski is on the proverbial trading block coming off a career high 41 goals. The Sharks would no doubt be selling high on Pavelski but judging from GM Doug Wilson’s tone in recent weeks, it would have to be one hell of a package for him to move the versatile,”Swizz Army Knife” center.

Couture is certainly the face of the franchise moving forward, so he is not going anywhere. The Sharks have also announced they will have Brent Burns back on their blue-line to be their “Drew Doughty or P.K. Subban” type defenseman. Wilson referenced those two players when announcing Burns move back to defense a few weeks ago. Burns isn’t going anywhere.

Therefore, the section of fans whom hope to see a big name traded away will surely be let down.

However, those in that camp really shouldn’t be overly disappointed.It bears repeating that the Boston Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead in the 2010 playoffs and won the Stanley Cup the following year. In the summer of 2010 they didn’t trade away any core players, they simply added to what they already had.

Given that the Sharks want to go younger and that their oldest vets in Thornton and Marleau are likely to remain, the Sharks may not trade anyone from their current roster this summer.

If the Sharks were to trade away a current roster player, you could make a strong case the most likely candidate to be moved is restricted free agent defenseman Jason Demers.

While it may seem counter intuitive to trade away a young defenseman when Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s playoff injury exposed what was a thin Sharks blue-line, it might be wise for the Sharks to sell high in this case.

The just turned 26-year-old Montreal native is coming off a career year where he posted 34 points and a plus-14 rating. Even before he landed on the top pair with Vlasic, Demers was having a solid season alongside Scott Hannan, a third pair stay at home defender. In other words, it wasn’t just playing with Vlasic, Demers had a tremendous year in his own right.

With a career year, Demers, who made just $1.5 million this past season, is due for a solid raise. However as an RFA, Demers’ new deal might be as part of a sign and trade just like the one that saw the Sharks ship Devin Setoguchi away as part of the Brent Burns deal back in 2011.

Like Setoguchi, Demers has had his share of ups and downs in his young career. He burst onto the scene in his rookie campaign, playing No. 1 power play minutes alongside Dan Boyle in 2009-10. In his sophomore campaign, Demers points per game rate fell but he made great strides defensively and the injury which forced him to miss the 2011 Western Conference final was considered a big loss.

The following two years however saw Demers fall off a cliff. After playing in 75 regular season games in 2010-11, Demers was frequently a healthy scratch during 2011-12 and ’12-’13. He played just 57 games in ’11-’12 accumulating just 13 points and a minus-8 rating. In the lockout shortened season he played just 22 games, scoring a mere three points with a rating of minus-4. During the 2013 playoffs, Demers was a healthy scratch for all but one of San Jose’s 11 games where he played as a fourth line winger.

Demers’ excellent 2013-14 season could be a sign of things to come but his track record suggest he could also regress.

Now I am certainly not advocating the Sharks move Demers. He is one of the better interviewees on a Sharks team that has recently lost other great talkers in Jamie McGinn, Ryane Clowe, and most recently Dan Boyle. Plus, my guesses are that this time around Demers has indeed figured it out for real with the help of hall of fame defenseman and associate coach Larry Robinson now behind the bench.

That said, with Burns back on the blue-line, that most likely means Demers is slated to start the season on San Jose’s third pair. It doesn’t seem likely that the sharks would pair Demers on the left side with either Burns or Braun, who are fellow right-handed shots. Demers is used to playing the right side and while one could argue having him on a third pair gives San Jose depth, it also would be a waste of prime talent on a third pair likely to see minimal minutes.

Therefore, if the Sharks were to acquire either a scoring forward (to help offset the loss of Burns up front), or a left-handed defenseman, giving up Demers to do it makes a lot of sense. Perhaps the Sharks could entice the Maple Leafs into giving up a young left-handed defenseman like Jake Gardiner for little more than Demers, perhaps straight one for one.

As always for more on the Sharks follow Andrew on twitter: @ViewFromBensch

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