Author’s Note: Over the past few weeks Inside Hockey has been taking a look at various players the San Jose Sharks could be interested in acquiring this offseason.
The following column is the final volume of a six piece set titled “Possible Sharks Offseason Additions.”
In case you missed any of the previous five, here are the links:
In this final installment, we take a look at a handful of so-called “role players” and what they could bring to the table for San Jose.
Prior to this past season the Sharks reached the conference finals two years in a row. And in both those seasons one could argue they employed the best third line center in the league.
And as hockey people know, forward depth, especially the center position, makes all the difference in the world. In 2009-10 the Sharks had defensive wiz and face-off guru Manny Malhotra centering their third line but failed to re-sign him that next offseason. In his place though the Sharks slotted in Joe Pavelski in that spot for the following season and San Jose had three impressive scoring lines during the 2011 postseason.
This past season, veteran centers Michal Handzus and Dominic Moore each had an opportunity to lock down the third line center role. Unfortunately for San Jose, both players put forth pitiful performances
While a strong “4th line” unit (Daniel Winnik, Andrew Desjardins, Tommy Wingels) helped shoulder the load late in the regular season, it was clear in the first round playoff series with the St. Louis Blues that the Sharks’ bottom-six were vastly over-matched.
You can call it an oversimplification but a strong third line equaled two deep playoff runs, a poor one led to a quick exit. It really isn’t much more complicated than that.
Ergo, it is almost a certainty the Sharks will look to upgrade with a key addition to their bottom six before next season comes around. Just who will that player be? Perhaps it’s one of the following:
Brian Boyle (C)- New York Rangers (trade)
The New York Rangers were the favorites to get to the finals out of the East and nearly got there. New York was just two wins shy of meeting up with the LA Kings in what would have been a much more attractive series. No offense to New Jersey but Jonathan Quick vs Henrik Lundqvist would have been a much better match-up to watch.
Centerman Brian Boyle played a huge part of that. The 6’7″ 244 pound center averaged over 15 minutes of ice time this season and led all Ranger forwards in short-handed ice-time by playing an average of 1:59 down a man. Playing in all 82 games Boyle posted 26 points and added six more in 17 playoff games. He also turned in a respectable 51.8% face-off percentage.
The Sharks need size in front of the opponent’s net, and they need someone who can help kill penalties. Boyle can do both and he can do it for relatively cheap, as he is set to make just $1.7 million next season.
One might think it odd for the Rangers to trade their top penalty killing forward and chances are they won’t but hey Wayne Gretzky was traded, so you can never say never.
Perhaps the Sharks offer up Patrick Marleau who has fallen out of favor with many within the organization and amongst the fan base for Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky? That deal could make sense for both sides.
Cal Clutterbuck (RW)- Minnesota Wild (trade)
The Sharks have been a team over the years that has been accused of not being nasty enough and not being physical enough. Even with the likes of Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray, the Sharks have had the stigma of being soft.
What better way to shake that stigma than adding one of the most physically imposing forward forces in the league?
Cal Clutterbuck has led the league in hits for multiple seasons and despite his physical nature he has managed to play in at least 74 games in each of his four full seasons in the league. He will bank in 25-30 points and has an outside shot to deliver 20 goals in a third line role as he put up 19 during the 2009-10 campaign.
San Jose has run through a list of middle of the road right wingers over the last few seasons including Mike Grier and Torrey Mitchell. They do their job but don’t have any element of their game that is above average. Clutterbuck on the other hand could help set that physical tone that San Jose has been accused of missing over the years.
Making $1.4 million this next season Clutterbuck is certainly affordable and we all know from last offseason that the Sharks and Wild are not afraid to do business.
Jarret Stoll (C)- Los Angeles Kings (UFA)
Stoll made not have had the statistical season he would have liked. After three straight seasons of 40 or more points, Stoll’s point total fell to just 21 this season in 78 games. Furthermore he only chipped in five points in 21 playoff games. But right now, if you were to ask him would he really care? Probably not seeing as he’s now a Stanley Cup Champion and soon to be a proud owner of a Stanley Cup ring.
Stoll made $3.6 million last season and as he gets older his role will be more and more of a typical third line center (25-35 points, strong two-way game) and so it will be interesting to see how much he makes on his next deal.
Cup or no cup, this is a business, Kings will have to pay Quick big money soon, Martinez and Voynov are soon to be RFA’s. Do the Kings want to pay Stoll over $3 million annually on his next deal? Maybe, maybe not.
And it’s not totally out of the question for a King to make his way to San Jose. Look at Handzus and Rob Blake as recent examples.
Stoll would fit in nicely on most teams, and centering Winnik and Wingels on a third line sounds awfully good if you’re a Sharks fan.
Troy Brouwer (RW)- Washington Capitals (trade)
The Capitals are one of those teams like the Sharks that thrill their fan bases every year only to let them down at some point come playoff time. Each franchise has won a President’s Trophy in recent seasons but neither has been able to hoist the Cup.
Considering that Troy Brouwer is an elite role player capable of putting up 30-40 points with a physical two-way game, the Sharks would obviously be interested given the right deal.
But why would the Capitals trade him? Well, it may not be likely, but let’s just think out loud for a second, shall we? Alex Semin is a UFA and the Capitals might want to make a change by letting him go. If they do, how do they replace his production?
Conceivably the Capitals could take Marleau off the Sharks’ hands to replace Semin’s scoring ability and give up a couple of role players in Brouwer and Jason Chimera in the process. Perhaps a mid-round draft pick thrown in as well.
Brouwer will make $2.35 this season and Chimera will make $1.75 and would help bring San Jose much better depth to their bottom two lines. Losing Marleau would hurt, but it isn’t impossible to replace his production by committee (ie: Wingels improving, Brouwer, Chimera, Winnik all chipping in goals).
With Sammy Pahlsson leaving the NHL, the market for quality role-players is rather slim. But the Sharks have a dreadful bottom-six and penalty kill to fix. Chances are they will make a move to bolster both those areas. If you had to ask for a percentage of one of these four players ending up in San Jose? Well, seeing as just one of four is a UFA, and it’s difficult to predict trades, I’ll put it as high as 35%.
Most likely to be a Shark—Stoll, Clutterbuck, Brouwer-Boyle—least likely to be a Shark.