SAN JOSE - Sharks center/wing James Sheppard has been traded to the New York Rangers in exchange for a fourth round pick in 2016, a Sharks source confirmed after multiple reports surfaced on Sunday.
In 57 games with the Sharks, Sheppard, a pending unrestricted free agent, has five goals and 11 assists for 16 points and 28 penalty minutes.
Sheppard, 26, had just two goals in his last 48 games despite averaging 13:43 of ice time. He spent the majority of his time this season centering the Sharks’ third line with various wingers.
Sheppard’s departure should result in sophomore Tomas Hertl getting more time at the center position, as the Sharks would ultimately like to see the 21-year-old former first round pick center his own line. Hertl, who started at center in five games, has struggled this season with 24 points (10g, 14a) in 63 games primarily as a left wing.
“Shep has played well for us, but it’s an opportunity to add to our assets and an opportunity to get Tomas Hertl back to playing the center position,” general manager Doug Wilson said on a conference call.
The Sharks are expected to be sellers as Monday’s noon NHL trade deadline approaches. Sheppard was one of a number of pending free agents on the roster, while others include Antti Niemi, Matt Irwin, Tyler Kennedy, Andrew Desjardins and Scott Hannan.
The Sharks could still make a minor move or two, but a major transaction is unlikely.
Sheppard was originally acquired by the Sharks on August 7, 2011, in exchange for a third round pick in the 2013 draft. He signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract extension in the offseason. The Sharks retained $100,000 of Sheppard’s salary in the transaction.
A former first round pick (ninth overall) by Minnesota in 2006, Sheppard went nearly three years between NHL games after suffering a career threatening left knee injury in the 2010 offseason.