Author’s note: Last week we featured the first of six articles on the possible offseason additions for the Sharks. That initial column focused on big name stars like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The second piece (published earlier this week) focused on under the radar top-six forward options like Viktor Stalberg and Jiri Hudler.
Today’s article focuses on the ever popular “low-risk/high reward” type players. And unlike the first two groups of possibilities, the chances are much higher that one of these five skaters makes their way to San Jose.
Brad Boyes (RW)- Buffalo Sabres (UFA)
Is he another Jonathan Cheechoo? Perhaps Brad Boyes was just a flash in the pan when it comes to goal scoring.
He scored 43 goals (65 points) in 2007-08 and 33 goals (72 points) in 2008-09.
Those are solid numbers for a first or second line winger. But since then his stat lines read the following:
2009-10: Goals: 14, Points: 42
2010-11: Goals: 17, Points: 55
2011-12: Goals: 8, Points: 23
Forty-three goals one season and then just eight a few seasons later? Yiiiiikesss.
The market for Boyes (one time Shark actually) should be extremely slow. His point totals dropped towards the end of his days with St. Louis and then they dropped again in what certainly looks like the end of his Buffalo career.
However, it is important to note, that while his point totals aren’t what they were, Boyes did have a bounce back 2010-11 season, a 13-point increase on the prior campaign.
Boyes made $4.0 million this past season but it would be surprising if he received more than a one-year deal for $2.5million this upcoming season.
If you’re the Sharks, don’t you at least have to consider Boyes to be an option? He has been known to play well with good players around him. Put him on a line with Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture, and for no more than $2.5 million dollars you could have yourselves a 50 plus point second line right wing.
Even if Boyes falters, a one year deal for $2-2.5 isn’t breaking the bank. Might be worth a shot.
Kristian Huselius (LW)- Columbus Blue-Jackets (UFA)
Huselius has battled significant injuries the last two seasons, playing in just 41 games in that span with Columbus (including just two this past season). But when healthy, the 33-year-old is still a top-six caliber winger. Prior to the 2010-11 season, Huselius played in 81, 81, 74 and 74 games in the four seasons prior. And during those seasons he posted point totals of 77, 66, 56, and 63.
Last season Huselius made $4.75 million but given the injuries and advanced age, that should come down to about $3.5 million for a two or three year deal. But if healthy, he is still a lock for 55 points.
Now the Blue-Jacket forward that almost all Sharks fans are going “gaga” for is Rick Nash. But Nash is under contract at $7.8 million and is barely a lock for more points than Huselius when you look at their career numbers side by side.
There is no denying that Nash is the better player and his point totals could go through the roof playing with a center like Joe Thornton. It is certainly fair to make that suggestion.
However, it is also fair to make the suggestion that if the Sharks signed Huselius, they could easily end up receiving 4/5 the production of Nash for less than 1/3 the price when you consider Nash’s contract (in years and dollars) and the talent that would have to be given up to acquire him.
Nash is high risk, extremely high reward, Huselius is low risk, pretty high reward. I’ll go with the latter if I were a GM.
Mikael Samuelsson (RW)- Florida Panthers (UFA)
Another one-time Shark, Mikael Samuelsson doesn’t fit San Jose’s need to get younger and faster but he is one savvy, savvy player. His game is worthy of being called captain Mikael Samuelsson. Savvy?
Ok, enough with the “savvy” comments but Samuelsson truly is a guy that can the job done on multiple levels. He can be a 50-point player on a third line. That type of winger that is hard to come by in this league and it is a mystery to me why he isn’t a more coveted.
A Cup-winner with the Red Wings in 2007-08, Samuelsson knows what it takes to win and can play on any forward line. He may not kill penalties, which is a big issue the Sharks need to address but he can fill in adequately on the power-play.
When with the Red Wings, Samuelsson was often that one nondescript forward who would come through in the clutch. Even with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom and the likes, Samuelsson always had a knack for making his presence felt in the postseason.
Samuelsson could conceivably fit in quite well on a Sharks third line with Daniel Winnik and Andrew Desjardins.
He only made $2.5 million last year and that should come down a bit, so it would certainly be a low-risk high reward type signing.
Steve Sullivan (LW)- Pittsburgh Penguins (UFA)
Sullivan doesn’t fit the Sharks need to get younger, but he does fit the need to get faster. The diminutive winger has boat loads of skill but has had injury issues throughout his career. Best known for his years with Chicago and Nashville, Sullivan played out a one-year $1.5 million dollar deal with the Penguins this past season, scoring 48 points in 79 games.
Approaching 40, Sullivan would be a low-risk, high reward signing for any team in the market for extra speed in their top-six.
If healthy, (which is a big if) Sullivan playing on Thornton’s left with Pavelski on the right side, one could easily see him reaching 55-60 points. For less than $2 million dollars, that would be a heck of a steal and would allow for cap space to be allocated elsewhere.
Chris Kelly (C)- Boston Bruins (UFA)
Unlike the previous four forwards, Chris Kelly isn’t the same type of low-risk/High reward because he is money in the bank for his role and will make a contract fitting of his top level bottom-six play. He is the epitome of what you want in a third line center. And when you consider Boston has up and coming star forwards due up for new contracts in the near future, it is conceivable that Kelly goes elsewhere.
Simply put, Kelly is the player you can bank on to be there night in and night out and do his job.
In seven NHL seasons, Kelly has played in 82, 82, 75, 82, 81, 81 and 82 games. Translation: he doesn’t miss games.
On good teams, Kelly is sure bet to finish with 30-40 points, plus he can kill penalties. This past season he was the third most used forward on Boston’s penalty kill and the year prior (the year Boston won the cup) he was first amongst Bruin forwards in terms of short-handed ice time.
If the Sharks go after one free agent harder than any others this offseason, Kelly ought to be it. San Jose knows what they had and lost in Manny Malhotra a couple years ago and if they want to get back to the conference finals and further, a dynamo third line center is crucial.
This past season Kelly made $2.125 million and a three year deal worth $7.5 million would be money well spent on the 31-year-old center.
San Jose may have been bounced in the first round this past season, but they have lots of parts already in place. A few shrewd moves should catapult them back into another deep playoff run next season. The likelihood of one of these low-risk/high reward players coming to San Jose this offseason? If you had to ask for a percentage, perhaps as high as 50%.
Most likely to be a Shark—Kelly, Sullivan, Samuelsson, Huselius, Boyes—least likely to be a Shark.