Perhaps if it wasn’t for the loophole in Dany Heatley’s contract only opening up in July, the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild may have just made one gargantuan trade.
If Heatley didn’t have a no trade clause during June, then the blockbuster deal between San Jose and Minnesota that went down at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft probably becomes the biggest trade in the last decade.
What ended up being just another highly talked about deal which sent winger Devin Setoguchi, prospect Charlie Coyle, and 2011 first round pick (No.28 overall) to Minnesota for defenseman Brent Burns and 2012 second round pick could have looked like:
Heatley, Setoguchi, Coyle, first round pick for Burns, Martin Havlat and a second round pick.
However, with Heatley’s contract only allowing him to be traded without consent to any one of 19 teams after July 1st, the Sharks couldn’t move him in June. Therefore the official record has the Sharks and Wild having made two completely separate transactions. Minnesota was not on Heatley’s list of the 10 teams he couldn’t be traded to and on July 3, the Heatley for Havlat swap was announced.
Two noteworthy trades between the same two franchises. One might say that Sharks GM Doug Wilson and Wild GM Chuck Fletcher have a knack for doing business with one another. These two headline trades as well as the minor deal a year ago that sent enforcer Brad Staubitz from San Jose to Minnesota for a fifth round draft choice and the two franchises aren’t strangers by any means.
With three recent deals, the two GM’s seem to be quite familiar with one another.
But what are the chances the two men make it a trifecta of trades in this particular offseason?
Not likely. If there were any other players that either side liked on the other team, those talks probably already happened and subsequently were denied.
That said, looking at how the previous trades have set up each franchise, certain needs have been addressed but certain holes have been created.
On San Jose’s end losing Devin Setoguchi does hurt their forward depth. Last year in the playoffs San Jose featured a third line of Torrey Mitchell, Joe Pavelski and Kyle Wellwood. An undersized group of all right-handed natural center does not sound like an ideal third line but they were extremely effective down the stretch of regular season and into the postseason. But with Setoguchi gone, it sounds as if Sharks are planning to return Pavelski back to a top-six role. Combine that with the fact Wellwood is still a free-agent and clearly the higher-ups in San Jose did not see that third line having long term success.
For Minnesota, they now have a hole on defense. Losing Brent Burns is a huge blow. Burns is a legitimate No. 1 caliber defenseman and that is certainly a tough pill to swallow. And while Minnesota does still have veteran Marek Zidlicky to quarterback a power-play, no doubt they could use a second offensive option in their top-4. Highly regarded prospect Jared Spurgeon could fill the role as the 2008 sixth round pick popped in four goals and 12 points in 53 games a rookie. If he struggles though, the Wild don’t have much of a back-up source of blue line offense behind Zidlicky. Tough to rely on such an inexperienced young player in that role.
If a third trade were to be made between the two clubs, the swap that would make the most sense given team needs would be Sharks defenseman Jason Demers for Wild right wing Cal Clutterbuck.
Both players are 23 years old, with Clutterbuck being a mere eight months older. Demers is under contract for two more years at $1.25 M, and Clutterbuck is under contract for two more years at $1.4M.
In each of his first three full years in the league Clutterbuck has lead the NHL in hits. The 5’10″ 203 pound Ontario native has also increased his offensive production in both goals and assists each year he’s been in the league. From his rookie year in 2008-09 when he posted 18 points, to 21 the following year and to 34 this past season.
Known for a great two-way game, Clutterbuck would be an ideal fit for any team’s bottom-six forward group. Scoring pop that allows him ability to play top-six in a pinch, but a defensive game that allows him to be an absolute dynamo of a third line right wing. And that physical play, that nastiness to his game, would be more than welcomed in San Jose after losing Ben Eager, Scott Nichol and Jamal Mayers to free agency. Considering Clutterbuck’s track record, a 20-goal, 35-40 point season isn’t out of the question.
Regardless of who you talk to, everyone who has seen Jason Demers play defense agrees the Quebec native has massive potential. Already a top-4 defenseman, Demers has No. 1 potential in the eyes of most who have seen him play on a daily basis. Two years ago in his rookie campaign he opened up the regular season on San Jose’s top power-play unit. That’s right, on a team with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Dan Boyle, Rob Blake, Dany Heatley and Ryane Clowe, an undrafted rookie in Demers was on the No. 1 power-play unit. Future Hall of Fame defenseman Rob Blake started on the second unit. Talk about some serious confidence from the coaching staff in a little known rookie.
While he didn’t remain on the top unit for long, Demers showed in his rookie campaign to have tremendous offensive flair. The 6’1″ 190 pound defenseman scored four goals and added 17 assists in 51 games in his first NHL stint while playing just 15:25 per game. During his first year however he was far below average in his own zone and often a liability defensively. Yet this past season Demers vastly improved defensively, becoming close to average in his own zone after quite often being played the fool by the more talented forwards in his rookie season. At the offensive end his point totals didn’t continue to rise (just 24 in 75 games) but his power play time certainly diminished as for the vast majority of the year, Boyle and Pavelski operated the points on San Jose’s top unit and Ian White ran the second unit after being acquired middle of the season.
As mentioned above, the likelihood of this deal happening is extremely slim. One would have expected this swap to be apart of either one of the previous two trades if it were going to happen. But it’s worth a discussion in an otherwise slow part of the year for hockey news.
Of the few non-Sharks fans I suggested this trade to, they all liked the deal better from the Sharks end of things despite the fact about two-thirds of the Sharks fans telling me they didn’t like the trade from San Jose’s end (a bit biased on the side of Demers perhaps?)
Even though both teams would clearly benefit in this theoretical trade, as each team has a need for the qualities of the player who would be coming their way, the Sharks can better afford to lose Demers than the Wild can afford to lose Clutterbuck—if only by a small amount.
Demers is currently slated on the Sharks third defensive pairing and the Sharks could more easily replace him with another young puck moving defenseman on their roster in Justin Braun. Plus there are depth defensive defenseman available in free agency who are more than capable of playing on a third pair. Certainly the Sharks would be giving up the higher end potential in the deal, but Demers’ future as a No. 1 looks much more feasible elsewhere.
If Minnesota gives up Clutterbuck, they lose a type of player every team covets at the forward position and would be extremely difficult to replace. The league leader in hits year in year out with 20-goal scoring potential, can’t be so easily replaced. Then again, Demers could become an elite defenseman in Minnesota for years to come which is certainly more valuable than even the best third line right wing.