The San Jose Sharks were supposed to be off for two days before taking on the first place Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, but between a trade, a waiver wire pickup, minor league transactions and a suspension being handed out on Tuesday, it wasn’t a typical day off for the Sharks organization.
First news of the day came early this morning when the Sharks acquired veteran tough man Ben Eager from the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for a fifth round draft choice.
Eager, a Blackhawk last season, played in 18 of 22 playoff games in their route to the Stanley Cup last year. He only posted three points during the postseason but for Sharks followers unfamiliar with the soon to be 27-year-old winger, he is a hard nosed, gritty enforcer who can skate and make plays much better than any of San Jose’s previous enforcers in Jody Shelley, Brad Staubitz or Scott Parker.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Eager is a left handed shot who will no doubt provide a physical presence to the Sharks lineup, one that has often been criticized as soft over the years.
Subsequently however, the addition of Eager made it clear that the up-and-coming enforcer Brandon Mashinter will be sent down to the minors. Mashinter, Andrew Desjardins and Justin Braun were re-assigned to San Jose’s AHL affiliate in Worcester shortly after the news of Eager’s acquisition.
Desjardins had only played in three games with the big club, but both Braun and Mashinter had been around long enough to show some NHL level ability.
Braun notched nine points in his first 15 games as a defenseman but his defensive skills remain raw and his overall performance wasn’t enough for him to crack the top-six on the depth chart.
Mashinter, however is the most surprising of the three to be sent down. While his role on the big club is nearly a mirror image of what Eager’s role will be, the 6-foot-4, 235 pound rookie had played his best two games of the season the past two games for the Sharks.
Against St. Louis when the Sharks snapped their six game losing streak, Mashinter was the clear winner of a first period fight and he finished the game a plus-2 with nearly 10 minutes of ice time. The plus-2 rating came as a direct result of his strong play even though he didn’t pickup a point. His cross ice pass from the wing to the point would have been the “third assist” on Dany Heatley’s go-ahead goal and his pressure on the fore-check led to Jamie McGinn’s first goal of the season. Mashinter followed that up by receiving over 10 minutes in ice time in Phoenix and was solid at both ends. Plus, both games saw the rookie get some power play time with the second unit.
Barring significant injury, there is no doubt Mashinter will be back in the NHL sometime soon.
Not all the news was positive for the Sharks today, as their energizer bunny in fourth line center Scott Nichol was suspended four games for his high hit on Coyotes’ defenseman David Schlemko. Here’s a clip of Nichol’s hit from Monday…
There was no penalty called on the play and yes Nichol has been suspended twice previously for dirty plays but this play in particular does not appear to be suspension worthy. Not only was no penalty called on the play but Schlemko could see the hit coming. If the correct call was made on the ice, the referees would have seen fit to call a double minor for elbowing and charging. But no such call was made. There was no intent to injure, it wasn’t blindside, it wasn’t what you would call a cheap shot.
Now Nichol’s hit warrants a suspension but when Toronto’s Colton Orr (a prototypical enforcer/goon) takes out the NHL’s leading Calder Trophy Candidate with an ugly knee on knee collision, there is no further discipline? Colin Campbell might have some explaining to do on this one…
And finally, the Sharks announced today they picked up ex Vancouver forward Kyle Wellwood off waivers to help offset the loss of Torrey Mitchell at the center position.
Wellwood hasn’t played in the NHL this season but was about to become property of the St. Louis Blues before the Sharks snatched him off waivers. Last season Wellwood posted 25 points in 74 regular season games for Vancouver and appeared in all 12 of their postseason games notching seven points.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds, Wellwood had what would have been a career year in 2006-07 with the Maple Leafs before injury cut his season short. He posted 42 points in 48 games that season. His contact with the Sharks is a two-way deal so he can be sent down to the AHL but with the Sharks thin at center with Nichol and Mitchell out of action, it is highly likely Wellwood will be in the lineup Thursday against his former club.
Left wing John McCarthy was also activated from injured reserve.
Potential line combinations for Thursday:
Logan Couture-Joe Thornton-Dany Heatley
Patrick Marleau-Joe Pavelski-Devin Setoguchi
Jamie McGinn-Kyle Wellwood-Jamal Mayers
Ben Eager-John McCarthy-Benn Ferriero