The San Jose Sharks came into the 2011-12 season as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and barring significant injury (feel free to knock on wood Sharks fans), they will once again be division winners and a top seed come playoff time.
They have plenty top-six talent and more than enough depth on the blue-line and between the pipes. One could make the case that they already have all the necessary ingredients to win the Cup.
But with the Sharks stars not getting any younger, the window is closing and considering the Sharks have some wiggle room under the cap, it’s hard to imagine GM Doug Wilson electing not to add extra depth prior to the trade deadline.
While the Sharks have received impressive performances from third liners Jamie McGinn and Michal Handzus this season, as well as an incredibly consistent fourth line trio of Brad Winchester, Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Murray, it still wouldn’t surprise one bit for another forward or two be added to the mix.
After all, outside of the starting bottom-six, San Jose’s forward depth is far from great. Remember last year McGinn and Desjardins were the 13th and 14th forwards used behind now former Sharks Jamal Mayers, Scott Nichol and Ben Eager.
With Desjardins and McGinn now amongst the top-12 forwards, left behind them are a handful of rather inexperienced AHL players.
Of course the Sharks do still have the injured James Sheppard in the fold—a former Minnesota first round draft pick—whom they acquired this offseason in a string of deals with Wild.
However, Sheppard hasn’t played in an NHL game since April 2010, so it is hard to see him as a major contributor to the Sharks down the stretch.
Without question, the Sharks could benefit from adding forward depth and considering their depth between the pipes, there is already a natural trade set up in the works.
Goaltender Thomas Greiss for… name that bottom-six forward.
Despite playing last season in Sweden, Greiss has been an excellent backup to Antti Niemi this season and the soon to be 26-year-old goaltender would be a nice add to a team in search of a young goaltender to push for playing time.
But which potential trades would make the most sense?
Well, considering the Sharks are going to be a “buyer” in this case, they will certainly need a prototypical “seller” to trade with. Therefore teams not having the greatest seasons are your best bet.
Now of those struggling teams, which ones could use goaltending help? A bad team like the Carolina Hurricanes don’t make much sense considering they have a young star in Cam Ward as their No. 1 goaltender.
And finally, of the struggling teams with a goaltending need, which of those have third/fourth line players that are impending free agents?
Of course these are just general parameters and there are plenty of possibilities, too many to even count but here are three trade ideas that jump off the page.
1. Thomas Greiss to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Steve Downie.
Despite making the Eastern Conference finals last season, the Lightning are currently below .500 and in 13th place in the conference. Dwayne Roloson backstopped Tampa last season but at age 42, he’s obviously nearing retirement, and backup netminder Mathieu Garon isn’t considered a long term solution.
Greiss could help right the ship now and for the future. Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Downie is having a down year with just nine points and a minus-15 rating but the 5’11″, 200 pound right wing is a physical player with a scoring touch. Two years ago Downie scored 22 goals and 46 points before falling back to 32 last season.
Downie is in the last year of his contract that pays him 1.85 million and come the offseason he will be a restricted free agent.
A rather inexpensive contract in both dollars and length would be ideal for San Jose and Downie fits the bill as someone who can score and play top-six or bottom-six.
Downie, however, hasn’t seen much time on the penalty kill this season which lowers him as a trade possibility compared to the next two players.
2. Thomas Greiss to the Washington Capitals for Mike Knuble.
Like the Lightning, it’s odd to think of the Capitals as sellers but they fired their coach Bruce Boudreau and are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference. Alex Ovechkin hasn’t been the same player, Alexander Semin has been a healthy scratch at times and Mike Green is having difficultly staying healthy.
And veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun hasn’t lived up to expectations in net. He signed just a one year deal this past offseason and at this point it’s hard to see him being resigned.
The Capitals do have Michal Neuvirth as a young up and coming backup but Greiss would be a nice addition in terms of pushing Neuvirth for the starting job next season.
In return, the veteran Knuble makes a lot of sense for the Sharks. He can play top-six, bottom-six, he can play on the power-play and the penalty kill. He’s a true professional who can still put the puck in the back of the net. As a pending UFA with just a two million dollar contract, he fits the bill for what the Sharks need.
3. Thomas Greiss to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Samuel Pahlsson.
The Columbus Blue-Jackets are once again the definition of a “seller”. They are in last place in the entire NHL and their Calder Trophy winning netminder Steve Mason has fallen on tough times since his stellar rookie campaign.
Greiss would have the opportunity to go to Columbus and take the reigns as the starting netminder for the Blue-Jackets.
As for the Sharks, well, the name Sammy Pahlsson should ring a bell for the San Jose faithful.
Pahlsson was a thorn in the side of Sharks star center Joe Thornton during his years with the Anaheim Ducks. He is a gritty, in your face type of pest who can log plenty of minutes on the penalty kill. When able to play a full season, the 34-year-old typically finishes with 20 points or more, and in San Jose that amount of offensive production as a fourth line defensive center would be an incredible addition.
Columbus is a clear cut seller, they could use goaltending help and with Pahlsson being an impending un-restricted free agent, this deal would simply make too much sense.
Other, less likelier trade targets for the Sharks may include the likes of Shane Doan, Brian Rolston, Lee Stempniak, and David Moss.