There’s less than a week to go before the NHL’s March 2 trade deadline, so let’s hammer out a quick mailbag…
Who do the Sharks trade in order to get Phil Kessel? At the age of 27 do you think Kessel would fit with Doug Wilson’s rebuild? #SharksTalk (@TheLegitKoolKid)
Phil Kessel is an interesting name. He’s still young enough that he could be considered a player for the future, fitting in with Wilson’s plan, and he’s also locked up contract-wise with seven years remaining after this one (at an $8 million cap hit annually). The Sharks are one of just a few teams that could comfortably take on his contract, especially considering next season's salary cap may be lower than anticipated.
We already know the Sharks won’t trade a young prospect or a first round pick for a veteran rental, but that’s obviously not what Kessel is. He’s an elite talent and one of the NHL’s best offensive players. The Sharks would likely have to surrender a player like Tomas Hertl, Matt Nieto, Mirco Mueller, and/or Nikolay Goldobin along with multiple draft picks if they were to make a run at Kessel, as the Maple Leafs have entered into a rebuild phase (defined differently than what Wilson is calling a rebuild). But, it may be worth it.
Something else to keep in mind – Kessel and Joe Pavelski had some good chemistry at the Olympics in Sochi a year ago. It’s an intriguing thought to reunite two of the best active American-born players.
Where do you see Antti Niemi, Tyler Kennedy and Scott Hannan ending up? #SharksTalk (@jalexander46)
You just named the three likeliest Sharks to get moved before the deadline, in my opinion.
Among NHL playoff teams, I don’t see any that are in need of a starting goalie. However, Niemi could be a veteran backup for a contending team that wants a little more experience in that position, should their starter go down. Perhaps Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh or the Islanders?
Kennedy won’t be here next season, but he could be harder to move, considering how much he’s been hurt this year and that Todd McLellan hasn’t given him much of a chance in the top nine even when he’s healthy. Still, I could see an Eastern Conference team looking for a little more offense on its third or fourth lines taking a look at Kennedy.
A contending team looking for veteran depth also applies to Hannan, who I also can’t envision playing on the Sharks’ blue line next season. He’s already been rumored to Pittsburgh.
Which Sharks prospects are internally expected to make the roster next season? #SharksTalk (@bentleynathan1)
The three I would focus on would be Nikolay Goldobin, Rourke Chartier and Troy Grosenick.
Goldobin, if you recall, opened some eyes with his preseason performance after he was chosen in the first round of the 2014 draft. He was one of the final players to be reassigned due mostly to his small stature, and is currently in Finland skating with players much older than him. In 30 games there, the 19-year-old has 8 goals and 9 assists for 17 points.
Chartier, a fifth found draft pick in 2014, turns 19 later this year. He’s averaging nearly a goal-per-game with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets (46 in 53 games), and his 78 points is good for sixth in that league. Saying he will be NHL-ready next season may be a stretch, but he’s still someone to watch.
Troy Grosenick, though, could be in the mix for a roster spot shortly – maybe even this season, depending on if Niemi gets moved. Grosenick recently returned from an undisclosed injury in Worcester, but was playing very well before he got hurt in mid-January and missed about a month.
Speaking of goaltending…
Who is San Jose's starting goalie on opening night next year? #SharksTalk (@sharxman)
That may be the Sharks’ biggest question mark headed into the offseason, especially if they miss the playoffs. Niemi has given them some good seasons, but it will be time to move on if the Sharks aren’t playing past their regular season finale on April 11 - or even if they do get in.
Troy Grosenick is a nice prospect who played out of his mind in his first NHL game, getting a shutout against Carolina on Nov. 16, but he also allowed three goals on just 13 shots to Buffalo two nights later. Is he a future NHL goalie? Hard to say.
Alex Stalock has one year left on his contract. He’s never really gotten a fair shot at claiming the starter’s role, which suggests the current coaching staff doesn’t see him as a future number one. He can still be a reliable backup, but a full-time starter? That looks like a reach at this point for the 27-year-old.
Why won't management admit they were wrong about Brent Burns and switch him to forward so we can start winning games and scoring goals? #SharksTalk (@hockey_jerk)
I’m on record as saying I think moving Burns back to defense was the wrong move, but this is still a guy who’s tied for third in the NHL in scoring among defensemen with 45 points. When the Sharks offense is clicking, Burns, the team’s lone All-Star, is often playing a key role.
At the same time, the defensive mistakes he’s still making with 21 games to go probably have McLellan and his coaching staff banging their heads against the wall, including Saturday’s Stadium Series loss, in which Burns was out of position on both Los Angeles goals in the 2-1 loss.
As far as moving him back to forward – it’s not going to happen. The Sharks simply don’t have the depth on the blue line to eat up his minutes (he leads the Sharks with 24:14 time-on-ice time per game), and they definitely don’t have another right-handed shot. When righty Jason Demers was traded to Dallas that assured that Burns wasn’t going to play anywhere other than the blue line.