Last week we touched upon the likelihood of an elite level star making his way to San Jose this offseason. However, considering the Sharks already have an expensive core group under contract, it is highly unlikely that one of these five studs will call the Bay Area home next season.
Therefore, if the Sharks organization is looking to make a clear statement of unhappiness with their current top two lines, then chances are one of the following “under the radar” top-six caliber forwards will make their way to San Jose over the summer.
Olli Jokinen (C)- Calgary Flames (UFA)
The former longtime Florida Panther has been the butt of many jokes for being viewed as an under performing player in his post Florida career but one could argue he has been overly criticized. While his goal scoring has dropped off from the high 30’s to mid-to-low-20’s, he has still averaged 67 points per season since his breakout 2002-03 campaign. The Finnish center’s 64 points last season were his highest since his final year in Florida (2007-08) where he ended the year with 71 points. While he isn’t what he once was, it is not a stretch to use the word potential with Jokinen. He has spent the majority of his career on bad teams (note his career rating of minus-111).
In terms of dollars, Jokinen’s most recent contract had him making three million per season for Calgary, down from his previous deal that paid him $5.25 million according to Flames Nation. As Jokinen continues to get older— will turn 34 next season—one would expect a contract of three years max, with two years being the more than likely duration of his next deal. Given the highest bidder, the free agent Jokinen could make between $4-4.5M for three years. But given the chance to play with a contender in San Jose, and a two year deal at $3.75M per season could do the trick. Jokinen centering Logan Couture and Martin Havlat could make for a strong second line.
That said, the Sharks ought to be looking to get younger and faster this offseason, and Jokinen doesn’t exactly fit into either of those categories. With the right contract though, Jokinen to San Jose is more than conceivable.
Ray Whitney (LW)- Phoenix Coyotes (UFA)
“The Wizard” may be 40-years-old but if anyone not named Teemu Selanne has access to the fountain of youth it’s certainly Ray Whitney. In his second year with the Coyotes, Whitney paced the squad in scoring with 77 points while playing in all 82 games.
Even at this point in his career Whitney can still be a dominant force. He had 53 assists this season! At 40 years old, he had 53 assists! Keep in mind Sharks captain Joe Thornton is considered one of the game’s elite set-up men in the prime of his career and he had 59 assists this past year at age 32! Whitney even matched Thornton overall this year with 77 points. At three million dollars, talk about a bargain! Now bets are that Whitney remains in the desert next year but San Jose has to be high up on his list of other destinations. The move would be short and San Jose is the franchise that drafted him. Whitney broke into the league and played in parts of six seasons with the Sharks from 1991-1996. It would be a fitting end to his career if he were able to help his original organization win its first Stanley Cup. A two year-deal worth $3.5 million per season to return to the Bay? It’s a free agent signing that wouldn’t surprise a soul.
Jiri Hudler (LW)- Detroit Red Wings (UFA)
Hudler hasn’t been a true Red Wings mainstay—leaving to play in the KHL for the 2009-10 season—and he isn’t exactly consistent as his point totals range from 37-57 over the last four seasons but there is something about the way he plays. The quick-footed winger has always been a pest to play against and he would help boost the speed dynamic to which San Jose is actually in need of in their top six. Thornton, Pavelski, Couture and Clowe aren’t known for their skating speed.
As for the speedy Hudler, being a Red Wing has brought him plenty of playoff experience. He has been through the ups and downs both individually and as part of a team. Now there are always going to be concerns when deciding whether or not to bring a player over to a new team (imagine Sidney Crosby as a free agent, he could be one concussion away from retirement) but the Sharks should have a leg up on knowing the pros and cons of Hudler’s game. Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was an assistant with Detroit where he coached Hudler for parts of three seasons.
Therefore, if McLellan were to give a two thumbs up to GM Doug Wilson on Hudler, it would make sense for the 28-year-old to sign with the Sharks. Last season Hudler made just $2.875 and so a four-year, $12 million dollar deal would be a fitting free-agent contract.
Viktor Stalberg (LW)- Chicago Blackhawks (possible trade)
The name Viktor Stalberg doesn’t exactly come to mind to the casual fan when thinking about Chicago Blackhawk forwards. With All-Star forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp on the roster, Stalberg is a guy that goes rather unnoticed. But the 6’3″ 210 pound Swede increased his point totals from 24 in 2010-11 to 43 this past season including 22 goals. Chicago already has nearly $24 million dollars wrapped up in the aforementioned all star group of forwards for multiple seasons and so it is hard to envision them signing Stalberg long term if his upward progression continues. The former Maple leaf has one year left on his contract that pays him $875K. If he makes similar strides this coming season as he did this past year, he will undoubtedly be due for a hefty raise.
Considering goaltender Corey Crawford had a shaky sophomore campaign for Chicago, perhaps San Jose would ship out one of their young goaltending prospects in return for Stalberg’s services?
Of course there is a possibility Stalberg doesn’t continue to improve, but the near 20 point improvement this past season came parallel with just a modest ice time increase of 10:41 to 14:04. With a full time top-six role and a continued increase in minutes, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Stalberg finish between 55-60 points next season.
James Van Riemsdyk (LW)- Philadelphia Flyers (possible trade)
There were a handful of minor rumors at the trade deadline this past year that maybe Van Riemsdyk would make his way to San Jose with one of the Sharks goaltenders heading the other way. However, a package involving Thomas Greiss didn’t get done and a trade with Niemi wouldn’t have made any sense when you consider Ilya Bryzgalov’s big money contract. As for “JVR”, the 23 year-old is already under contract for six more years at $4.25 million per season. While some will say that is too much money for too little production (99 points in 196 career games over first three seasons), for crying out loud the kid is only 23! A change of scenery could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the 6’3″ 200 pound winger.
A potential deal of Jason Demers, Thomas Greiss and Ryane Clowe for Van Riemsdyk and a mid round draft choice seems feasible for both sides.
The likelihood of one of these players ending up in San Jose is considerably higher than that of one of the bigger names coming over. If you had to put a number on it, perhaps there is a 30% chance one of these names ends up in San Jose next season.
Most likely to be a Shark—Hudler, Van Riemsdyk, Whitney, Stalberg, Jokinen—least likely to be a Shark.