The Sharks’ competition is loading up.
The Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings are all competing with the Sharks for playoff position, and each of those clubs has found a way to add pieces to their respective rosters in recent weeks leading up to Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
The Kings, who have surged back into third place in the Pacific Division thanks to an eight-game winning streak, added top defensemen Andrej Sekera on Tuesday from Carolina for a first round pick in 2015 and prospect Roland McKeown. Essentially a replacement for suspended defenseman Slava Voynov, Sekera has 17 points in 57 games and averages 22:46 of ice time.
The 28-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent.
Minnesota has climbed into the second wild card spot thanks mainly to goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who was acquired from Arizona on Jan. 14. In 18 games with his new team, Dubnyk has a 13-3-1 record, with a stellar 1.66 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
The Wild then traded for disgruntled Florida forward Sean Bergenheim on Tuesday in exchange for a third round pick. The 31-year-old pending unrestricted free agent has 18 points in 39 games this season after recently being healthy scratched.
Winnipeg, meanwhile, made perhaps the biggest trade of the NHL season when injured forward Evander Kane was shipped to Buffalo on Feb. 11. The Jets also sent defenseman Zach Bogosian to the lowly Sabres, but in return received skilled defenseman Tyler Myers and forward Drew Stafford. They made another move on Tuesday themselves, acquiring top-nine forward Jiri Tlusty from Carolina, and there’s now speculation Dustin Byfuglien could to return to an already strong Jets blue line.
It’s all but mathematically impossible that the Sharks, Jets, Wild and Kings will all make the playoffs, so the recent moves should raise the temperature in Sharks general manager Doug Wilson’s office a bit. Despite preaching a “one step backwards to take two steps forward” approach since early May, San Jose expects to make the postseason.
The Sharks haven’t gotten the sorts of contributions from some of their young players that they would have hoped, which is the biggest reason they’re currently in 10th place in the Western Conference. Sophomores Tomas Hertl, Matt Nieto and Alex Stalock have all regressed from their first full NHL seasons, while rookies Barclay Goodrow, Matt Tennyson, Chris Tierney and Mirco Mueller have been in and out of the lineup.
Will the Sharks rely on those aforementioned young players to pick up their games for the stretch run, will they look to add a minor piece or two, or is a blockbuster deal in the works?
It should make for an interesting few days.