SAN JOSE – The Sharks have made three trades in the last nine days, but that doesn’t mean they’re done dealing as Wednesday’s noon NHL deadline approaches.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has done an admirable job dealing unrestricted free agents-to-be, and players whose effectiveness was steadily declining for past two years, in return for draft choices in what he has described as a “strong draft year.”
By acquiring two more picks in the 2013 draft from the New York Rangers on Tuesday for Ryane Clowe, the Sharks have 10 picks total in this June’s draft, including four in the first two rounds.
[RELATED: Sharks trade Clowe to Rangers]
It’s an asset that Wilson will have in his pocket late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.
The Sharks could be in the market for another depth forward and/or defenseman. Up front, San Jose had only the injured Tim Kennedy sitting on Monday against Vancouver in addition to Clowe, although Kennedy has been skating regularly and he could return soon. There is a dearth of talent at the forward position in AHL Worcester, and the Sharks would probably like to avoid having to play Matt Pelech or Bracken Kearns in any meaningful games.
On defense, Brent Burns’ transition to a right wing and Jason Demers’ injury – presumably from a hit to the head from Detroit’s Cory Emmerton last Thursday – meant that rookie Matt Tennyson made his NHL debut against the Canucks. The organization is high on the 22-year-old Tennyson, but thrusting a young blueliner into a playoff chase with only a handful of games left in the regular season is risky.
On a conference call on Tuesday following the Clowe trade, Wilson left open the possibility that he’s not done making moves.
“Between now and tomorrow, we certainly have a lot of picks we could utilize,” he said. “We certainly have players that people like, that are players that we like also. I don’t know what will unfold tomorrow. But, I always take any call, and sometimes you get surprised on certain things.
“We like the way our team is playing. If we weren’t playing as well as we have in the last little while, we might be looking at some different things. But, right now, the way the group looks and how everybody falls into certain roles, we’re pleased. But, we’re always looking at ways to get better.”
* * *
About a week ago, one long-time NHL scout asked me, “Why are they trying to move Clowe?”
It’s a question I’ve heard a lot lately, especially on Tuesday after the deal to the Rangers was finalized.
Clowe’s next contract is the likeliest reason.
The Sharks and Clowe’s agent had talks before the lockout about a contract extension, but obviously nothing ever came of it. According to a source, Clowe is seeking a six-year extension, and for a guy whose numbers have been on decline for two seasons now, that’s probably a contract the Sharks want to avoid. Clowe was in the final year of a four-year, $14.5 million contract for an average of $3.625 million, and could be looking for a raise despite his zero-goal output.
As the roster stands right now, San Jose has $54.9 million tied up in 14 players next season, according to CapGeek.com (including Tennyson). That leaves them less than $10 million under the reduced 2013-14 salary cap to fill nine roster spots, if they want to carry a full 23.
Matt Irwin, an unrestricted free agent, can expect a hefty raise after showing he can be an everyday NHL player. He could command somewhere around $1.5 million a year, give or take a few hundred thousand.
Scott Gomez, who has been an effective fourth line center, and backup goalie Thomas Greiss also have expiring contracts, and the Sharks may want to bring them back, as well. Restricted free agents include TJ Galiardi, Andrew Desjardins and Jason Demers.
The Sharks could utilize the amnesty option and buy out a player like Marty Havlat, who is owed $5 million in each of the next two seasons, but the team has typically shied away from writing those checks.
Clowe probably wasn't in the Sharks' long term plans, so moving him now, while he still had value, made the most sense.
* * *
So, who’s going to take Clowe’s place now that he’s gone?
Wilson talked about “team toughness,” and hopes that Clowe’s warrior mentality will remain in the locker room, even if the player doesn’t.
“We’ve got some guys that are physical guys, too, and I think the one thing Ryane taught all of them was, ‘you be there for me, I’ll be there for you,’” Wilson said.
One player that may have made Clowe more expendable is Tommy Wingels. The 24-year old leads the Sharks in hits with 82, or 20 more than anyone else on the roster, and is currently lining up on the wing with Logan Couture – a place that Clowe occupied for the majority of Couture’s three years here.
Wingels still has a ways to go to develop into a consistent offensive threat, with three goals and seven assists for 10 points in 29 games, but his physical play and willingness to stick up for his teammates are two aspects of his game that the Sharks will need him to continue with Clowe now on Broadway.