A post-trade deadline Sharks mailbag that went a little longer than I anticipated, so let's dig right in...
Do you think Scott Hannan and Matt Irwin will be gone this summer? #SharksTalk
(Josh Biggs @JoshBiggs)
Six weeks ago, I would have said yes on both. Now, while I still think this is Hannan’s last year here and possibly in the NHL, I’m not so sure Irwin will be a goner.
The 27-year-old defenseman seems like a different player from the first half, when he couldn’t stay in the lineup and was having trouble keeping up with the pace of play. Lately, though, he’s been giving the team good, responsible minutes (he’s an even or plus player in his last nine games), contributing offensively with a career-high seven goals, and has at least one point in six of his last eight games.
When I talked to Irwin a couple weeks before the trade deadline, the pending unrestricted free agent said there hadn’t been any talks with the Sharks about a contract extension. I don’t know if that’s changed since his recent surge -– and hopefully his injury on Friday isn’t anything serious –- but if he keeps it up for the final few weeks, the Sharks might want to consider giving him another short-term deal if the price is right.
2015 is a deep draft. Doug Wilson wants more youth but San Jose has two picks in top 90. Could this lead to a draft day sell for picks? #SharksTalk
(Fourth Line Grind @the_4th_liner)
You’re correct in that the Sharks have just two picks in the first three rounds in the upcoming draft – their first round pick and their second round pick. Their third round pick now belongs to Philadelphia thanks to the regrettable Tye McGinn deal. Could they make some trades leading up the draft to acquire more? Of course.
The latest trade deadline wasn’t a great one for San Jose – although Doug Wilson was able to get some assets for Tyler Kennedy and James Sheppard, and acquiring Ben Smith for Andrew Desjardins might end up being a steal, the players the Sharks were offering just didn’t have much value across the league, and that apparently includes goalie Antti Niemi. I believe when the season began, Wilson figured his pending unrestricted free agents would have performed better than they had through February.
Keep in mind, though, that the Sharks chose seven players in last year’s draft, including three players in the first two rounds, and have three picks in the first two rounds in 2016. As bad as the McGinn trade turned out to be, Wilson was somehow able to get Colorado’s 2016 second round pick in the Brad Stuart deal. That’s commendable.
Just how critical are the next four games in regards to playoff hopes? And do you see Alex Stalock getting more starts? #SharksTalk
They’re all important now, right Brian? I'd say the Sharks need to get six of eight points on this homestand, since the rest of their schedule is pretty difficult with 10 of the final 13 on the road. This week provided their final three-day break between games, so they should be rested and ready to go against some very tough competition.
As for Stalock – I don’t see him getting too much action the rest of the way. I know he played well against Montreal on Monday, but he’s having a difficult season as a whole. Considering Todd McLellan never gave Stalock a chance to seize the starting job even when he was outplaying Niemi last season, I have no reason to believe he’ll get a chance now, even if Niemi isn’t likely to be re-signed.
How will the defense improve in the offseason – free agents, or planning to stick with re-tooling on the fly?
(Erik Kuhre @Puckguy14)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are both locked up for the next several years, so the team’s top defense pair is not likely to go anywhere. Pending restricted free agent Brenden Dillon is a player that I expect will sign a decent sized contract in the offseason, too.
We’re already touched on Scott Hannan and Matt Irwin, which brings us to Brent Burns.
The Sharks have already started reducing Burns’ five-on-five minutes in the last two games, and the defensive dividends have been immediate. I couldn’t figure out why Burns was playing 24-27 minutes a night when the team was preaching better defense during its miserable February (a conspiracy theorist might suggest that the move happened right after the trade deadline).
Put another way, if the Sharks are looking to make a major trade in the offseason, as Wilson has suggested, looking at moving the 29-year-old could make sense. He’ll be coming off of an impressive season offensively, has the ability to be an effective power forward, and reportedly has just a limited no-trade clause the details of which are currently unclear.
That would leave a hole on the right side that would need to be filled, and Matt Tennyson doesn’t appear to be the long-term solution, but Wilson could use his ample cap space and freed up cash to explore other options at that point.
Does management believe in Tomas Hertl still? #SharksTalk
(Steven Near @CopakeKid)
The overall expectations for Hertl have not changed. Management would like to see him play center on one of the top three lines by next season (at the earliest), and Hertl will be counted on to produce more in 2015-16 than he has so far this season.
That being said, I took a little criticism on Twitter recently for suggesting that I thought Matt Nieto and Barclay Goodrow would have been better off playing more games in the AHL this season. Not only do I still believe that to be the case, but I think you can put Hertl in that discussion, too. This is still just a 21-year-old kid, and Hertl has admitted more than once that he’s struggled with his overall confidence returning from a serious knee injury. That can’t be helping his development.
If Hertl continues to struggle next season, the suggestions that he (and some others) were rushed to the NHL are only going to get louder. It’s already shaping up to be an important year for him.
On a related note…
Do the Sharks benefit more from climbing back into the playoffs this year or missing out and getting a better pick? #SharksTalk
(Mark Stolan @stolanm98)
Obviously a higher first-round draft pick (and long odds on landing the top overall pick) would be a benefit of missing the playoffs, but here’s another one –- if San Jose misses and Worcester qualifies, the Sharks will have the option of sending a number of their younger players down for the AHL playoffs. That includes Hertl, Nieto, Goodrow, Chris Tierney and Mirco Mueller.
That could be a great experience for them, especially if Worcester is able to make a deep run.