San Jose’s Flashy Offseason May Not be Over

Thus far over the NHL offseason, it would be a safe bet to argue the San Jose Sharks being the most active team in the entire league. OK, certainly the Florida Panthers made a plethora of signings and brought in Kris Versteeg via trade but they had to make these acquisitions to reach the salary cap floor. The better adjective to describe Sharks GM Doug Wilson would be bold.

It is nearly impossible to argue otherwise that Wilson hasn’t been the boldest GM thus far during the offseason. Trading goal scoring right wing Devin Setoguchi, promising prospect Charlie Coyle and a first round draft choice (28th overall in the 2011 draft) to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for All-Star defenseman Brent Burns and a second round pick (2012)? Bold.

Trading the injury hindered All-Star winger Dany Heatley (in a separate deal) to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for another All-Star winger in Martin Havlat? Bold.

As touched on earlier this week, the cap space saved is a huge factor for San Jose in the Heatley trade but nonetheless a healthy Heatley could have been a third year charm in San Jose.

With Burns in need of a new contract after next season and Heatley potentially returning to 80-point form this upcoming season, certainly the two big trades with Minnesota come with potential for the Sharks to lose and lose big.

Heatley may go onto have productive 35-plus goal seasons with Minnesota, Setoguchi may regain his scoring touch, Coyle may turn out to be a solid NHLer in the future and Burns might walk away from the Sharks after one year.

If all that happens and the Sharks fail to win the Stanley Cup in 2010-11, well, these trades could very well end up looking quite bad.

However, Wilson doesn’t make these bold moves without a plan and the track record shows if Wilson wants to re-sign a player, he’ll get the deal done. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Douglas Murray and Antti Niemi all have re-upped to remain Sharks at one point or another. Brian Campbell bolted but players generally want to stay in the Bay Area.

Attribute that more to the astuteness of Wilson or the weather here in the Bay Area, in the long run it doesn’t matter. The Sharks will more than likely find a way to re-sign Burns and if they can’t? Well, plenty of other quality defensemen would gladly make a home in Northern California. San Jose has a winning culture and have fielded a Stanley Cup caliber team every season since 2003-04.

Healtey may have a bounce back year, remain healthy and score 40 goals and reach 85 points for the Wild. Maybe, just maybe Heatley would have become a clutch playoff scorer this year for the Sharks. But injury or no injury, Heatley’s postseason performances with the Sharks did little to impress in the time he was here. The phrase we so often here from many in the Sharks family is Einstein’s definition of insanity: “trying the same formula over and over again and expecting different results”

Well, it is hard to imagine a single Sharks follower expecting different results from Heatley this season. During the 2009-10 playoffs it was revealed that Heatley played through a serious groin injury. In 2010-11 season Heatley didn’t seem to skate much better, perhaps his groin won’t ever allow him to do the things that made him a 40 goal per year player.

And remember Ryane Clowe’s post-game rant after that Jan. 3 loss against Vancouver?(http://insidehockey.com/a-deeper-look-into-ryane-clowes-post-game-comments)

Hard to imagine Heatley not being one of the targets in that rant, if not the main one but to be fair Ryane Clowe did post the following tweet recently: “Want to send my best to a great teammate and friend Dany Heatley. Had a blast playing with you.”

Maybe he did have a blast, maybe he didn’t. Probably at times he did and at times he didn’t. Going back over playoff notes from this past season, there is a scribble which reads “WCF: Game 5, Dany Heatley having a phenomenal game. Moving his feet, making things happen, forcing the issue.”

But there was not one similar scribble for any of the other 17 playoff games. Certainly Martin Havlat isn’t the same point producer as Heatley but it’s all about the playoffs for the Sharks. And all indications are that Havlat is now healthy despite some injury issues earlier in his career and being known for his blazing speed, Havlat should fit in better with the increased game speed of the playoffs.

The trades may be “risky” as many columnists have noted, but considering the Sharks track record under Wilson, “risky” almost never comes back to nip them in the butt.

Now as the Sharks move forward with these two trades already on the books, could they go for the trifecta? Earlier today the most talked about free agent forwards still available were both signed by the St. Louis Blues. Veterans Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner have teammed up again to play for a young but talented Blues squad.

That leaves the list of potential scoring wingers on the free agent list down to J. P. Dumont, Antti Miettinen, Vaclav Prospal, Sergei Samsonov, Alexei Kovalev, and Cory Stillman. Even though Dumont and Miettinen could be decent fits for what the Sharks need—a third line winger to play alongside the recently signed Michal Handzus—but the list is thin in terms of good fits.

Kovalev, Stillman and Prospel don’t have the typical makeup that fits a third line player and Samsonov is a bit undersized for a third line role (although would add some speed to an otherwise slow forward group).

All of these players have been successful at the NHL level but the fit doesn’t seem to be there. Fortunately the Sharks have an asset they could possibly deal in what would be a third offseason splash.

Sharks defenseman Jason Demers without a doubt has Dan Boyle level potential and although he had just 24 regular season points in 74 games last season compared to 21 in 51 as a rookie, Demers’ defensive game grew tremendously from his rookie campaign. Plus when you consider he didn’t see No. 1 power-play time behind Boyle, Joe Pavelski and Ian White helping man the points, his point totals can be deceiving.

No question Demers is better than an third-line pairing. He is more than a fifth defenseman as he is currently on the Sharks depth chart. If the Sharks felt inclined to do so, moving Demers could fetch an equally talented forward (similar age/potential) that would boost their forward depth back up to the level they had this past playoff.

That deep of a forward group with Burns/Boyle on the back end and Niemi in net  would be a pretty formidable group.

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