Author’s note: With time ticking down to the NHL draft (June 22-23) and the start of free agency (July 1), there is only so much time left to speculate before moves start, err, continue happening. In fact, the inside hockey team got our latest Sharks column out just in time before San Jose made the move to acquire the negotiating rights to defenseman Brad Stuart.
The article was the fourth in a series of a six piece volume detailing the possible offseason targets for the Sharks, a squad looking to rebound from an uncharacteristic seventh place finish and first round exit.
By acquiring Stuarts negotiating rights, the Sharks now all but have the top-4 caliber defenseman back in a Sharks uniform. While the former Red Wing has yet to sign a deal, there is simply no better fit for any free agent than Stuart with San Jose. Stuart’s family has remained in the Bay Area during the defenders years in Motown and it has been well documented that the defenseman would like to be back with them full time. As for the Sharks, they are one defensive defenseman away from a stout top-4 group with Dan Boyle, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic under contract for next season.
However, considering it is yet to be a done deal, and even if it is, the Sharks may be looking to go defense heavy given the way the Blackhawks, Bruins and Kings have won Cups in each of the last three years.
As the saying goes “you can never have too many defensemen.”
So without further ado, here are some of the possible defenseman the Sharks could be targeting via trade this offseason.
Nick Schultz (D)- Edmonton Oilers
The former career long Minnesota Wild defenseman was sent to the Oilers at the trade deadline this past season. In 82 games between the Wild and Oilers he managed to tally just seven points (one goal, six assists) but he was 13th in the entire NHL in blocked shots (165) and was fourth amongst Oilers defensemen with 2:25 in shorthanded ice time per game.
Listed at 6’1″ 203, Schultz isn’t necessarily big or small, but he has been to known to be a steady defender worthy of top four minutes. The soon to be 30-year-old defenseman has played in at least 74 games every year of his nine year career with the exception of his rookie campaign where he appeared in 52.
The Saskatchewan native averaged 19:42 in ice time last season and is under contract for two more years at $3.5 million per season. Given the fact the Oilers have some young impact players in need of new deals now and in the near future, it wouldn’t be surprising to see GM Steve Tambellini field offers on Schultz.
While Schultz could fill out a defense pair with the Sharks’ Dan Boyle, he would certainly fit best with former Wild teammate Brent Burns (certainly some familiarity between the two as they played in parts of seven seasons together in Minnesota) especially if McLellan wants to keep Boyle alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Ladislav Smid (D)- Edmonton Oilers
While Schultz would be a nice add for any team, Smid would be the type of addition to really put a defense corps like San Jose’s over the top. The 6’3″ 226 pound defenseman is a big, physical, shut-down defender that would perfectly compliment the smaller and more offensive minded Dan Boyle.
At just 26-years-old, Smid is right smack in the middle off his prime years as a defenseman. This past season he logged a career high 20:54 in average ice time, and was first on the Oilers in shorthanded TOI with 3:22. Not only that, but the Czech native finished seventh in entire league with 184 blocked shots.
A 2004 first round draft choice of the Anaheim Ducks (9th overall), Smid has one year left o his deal that pays him just $2.25 million. There really is little reason to trade such a commodity of a defenseman so the Sharks would probably have to blow Tambellini away with an offer.
But given the fact the Oilers are still rebuilding, the Sharks could offer up younger prospects along with a winger like Ryane Clowe or even goaltender Antti Niemi to sweeten the deal.
Chris Phillips (D)- Ottawa Senators
Phillips may have a full no-movement clause but given the opportunity to play for a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations and he may be willing to waive. The first overall pick from back in 1996, Phillips has played in his 1,000th career game this past season. A career long Senator, Phillips has missed a grand total of three games over the last six seasons.
Despite his advanced age, the 34-year-old managed to block 137 shots (42nd in the entire league) and was third on the Senators in shorthanded ice time amongst defenseman, playing an average of 3:02 with his squad down a man.
He still has two years remaining on his current contract that pays him $3.08 million per season and the Sharks could easily pair him alongside Boyle or Burns in one of the top pairs.
It may seem unlikely that the Senators would cut ties with their franchise defenseman but given the right deal, perhaps a young defenseman and goalie prospect or draft pick and one has to think the Senators would consider bringing the offer to Phillips for approval.
Zach Bogosian (D)- Winnipeg Jets
It’s not that the Jets don’t have cap room, they have plenty of it, but does it make cap roll sense to sign Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian long term? They Jets already have Dustin Byfuglien under contract for the foreseeable future at $5.2 million per season and while he can be moved to forward, the Jets may think better of paying Enstrom and Bogosian long term deals. That would be three defensemen locked up for a lot of money for a long period of time.
Both Enstrom and Bogosian have one year remaining on their respective deals and each has a significant pay day awaiting them.
While the smaller sized Enstrom wouldn’t make sense for the Sharks, Bogosian is a defender that would fit the Sharks needs.
He brings size (6’3″ 215) and at 22 years old is still filling in his frame. The right-handed shooting defenseman has already played in 264 regular season games, making the NHL immediately upon being drafted third overall in 2008.
This past season he reached career highs in points 30 and ice time (23:18). He led the Jets in short-handed ice time by playing 2:59 on average while down a man. Given the right deal, Bogosian could conceivably end up as Vlasic’s defense partner, a possible duo that would have the potential to be one of best shut-down pairs in the game.
Bogosian is set to make $2.5million this upcoming season before becoming a restricted free agent next offseason. Like Smid, it makes little sense for Bogosian’s employers to ship him elsewhere but given the right deal, it is a possibility.
The Sharks could offer up Clowe and a prospect.
Given the recent trade for Stuart’s rights, and the fact it is nearly impossible to predict trades, it only makes sense to put the odds extremely low on any of these defenseman playing for the Sharks next season. Perhaps there is at most a 10 percent chance the Sharks trade for one of these four defenders.
Most likely to be a Shark—Schultz, Smid, Phillips, Bogosian—least likely to be a Shark.