Editor's note: Over the next several days leading up to the Sharks' next game on Feb. 27, we'll count down eight questions facing the team as it gets set to start the stretch run.
Question 4 – Will the Sharks be active at the trade deadline?
The NHL’s March 5 trade deadline is just 11 days after the Olympic roster freeze ends on Feb. 23.
Don’t expect any major moves from the San Jose Sharks, who are a virtual lock to make it to the postseason, could still make a run at the Pacific Division title with a little luck, and will be getting some key players back for the stretch run.
In a conversation just before the Olympic break when asked about the approaching deadline, general manager Doug Wilson pointed to the numerous Sharks that are ready to return from injury, including Logan Couture and Raffi Torres, who has yet to make his season debut. Adam Burish played his first two games of the season just before the break, so he’ll still be finding his legs when the season resumes on Feb. 27 in Philadelphia, too.
They aren't technically trade deadline acquisitions, of course, but they all know what is expected of them and have knowledge of how to play the Sharks' system.
“On paper, when you add people that you don’t know, you hope that it works. But when you add people that have had playing time together, you know that it works,” Wilson said. “You just hope they’re healthy enough to do it.”
In addition to the players coming back, the salary cap also makes things difficult for the Sharks to make any major additions. According to Capgeek.com, the Sharks will be nearly $1 million over the $64.3 million limit when Couture and Torres are activated from long term injured reserve, assuming Bracken Kearns gets reassigned. It has yet to be seen how the team will make itself cap-compliant.
Unless they shed a major salary such as, say, Marty Havlat’s $5 million cap hit, the Sharks won’t be able to bring anyone in without losing dollars elsewhere.
Wilson doesn’t seem concerned, though, and is looking forward to seeing his team completely healthy (with the exception of Tomas Hertl, who has not started skating yet). He also doesn't seem too eager to surrender any prospects or draft picks for a short term rental. The Sharks have their own first round pick and two second rounders in the 2014 draft.
“We’re still in refresh/reset,” Wilson said, repeating a term he coined at last year’s deadline.
“We’re in the phase where, yes, we’re trying to win. We think our team, when it’s all healthy, is as good as anybody. We haven’t had the luxury of seeing it all together, but you’ve got to project at some point.
“Are we going to use our young assets when we’re two-thirds of the way through a reset/refresh? Unlikely. I never say never, but, unlikely.”
Wilson’s stress level approaching the deadline is likely much lower this year than last. In the middle of the shortened 2013 season, the Sharks looked like a stale team in sharp decline. They were still in playoff position in the days leading up to the deadline thanks to their scorching start, but they simply couldn’t score goals.
Wilson wouldn’t have been blamed if he decided to trade one or several of the team’s franchise players, with an eye on building towards the future. Instead, he helped change the team’s identity by sending out some slower players and bringing in Torres, adding Scott Hannan for some depth on defense, and even stockpiling some draft picks in the process.