Devoid of talent in the farm system and carrying a win-now mentality that has been in place since the lockout, the San Jose Sharks find themselves in unfavorable territory this season.
Struggling to make the postseason, the Sharks' best hope is to capture the eighth seed in the playoffs where they will most likely face off against the defensively sound St. Louis Blues, or the overpowering Vancouver Canucks.
San Jose made a push this offseason to shore up the defense by acquiring former Wild blueliner Brent Burns. The Sharks also made a questionable move when they moved top sniper Dany Heatley for oft-injured forward Martin Havlat.
Nobody on the Sharks is getting any younger and you have to wonder just how long the fans and ownership are going to tolerate disappointing postseasons. Although the Sharks have made the Western Conference finals twice in a row after repeatedly being ousted early in the playoffs, they were overmatched horribly by the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks.
If the Sharks fail to make the playoffs or see a quick exit, there are five very well known, expensive veterans that could be moved to create a better future for the organization.
Contract status: Full no-trade clause until June 12, 2012, where Boyle can elect eight teams he will not accept a trade to.
A lot of people were downright mystified when the Sharks skipped over veteran defenseman Dan Boyle when naming a new captain. Boyle has all the intangibles, as well as skills you'd want in an older defenseman.
A locker room leader and phenomenal puck mover, Boyle makes quite a bit of money the next two years, but in the event that he's put on the market, 29 other teams would have some sort of interest in him.
Despite Boyle's age, he could fetch quite a bounty in a deal that would send him to a contender who is ready to win in the next two years.
Contract status: No-movement clause.
It's hard to imagine Marleau in any other uniform than San Jose's.
Marleau is still a relatively young player who has over 1,000 games played, and still possesses blazing speed and a great shot.
Able to play both center and wing, Marleau has a lot of value as a versatile top-six forward.
Perhaps unfairly known for disappearing in clutch situations, Marleau puts forth a lot of effort but never seems to be on the same page as his teammates when it matters. In years past Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle have carried the Sharks as far as they could go.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, their stars just never seemed to click at the same time.
Marleau is a support-type player who was stripped of his captaincy after playing every single NHL game as a San Jose Shark, and if he wishes to win a championship, perhaps a change of scenery wouldn't be such a bad thing.
Contract status: $2.5 million, one year remaining.
One of the strongest men in the NHL, Douglas Murray is a human-highlight reel of bone crushing hits.
While he doesn't put up points—at all—Murray is the type of player that other teams hate playing against. If he lines you up and you're dumb enough to keep coming at him, Murray will make you pay dearly.
The interest in Murray would be substantial. A shutdown defenseman, Murray would be best suited for a contender's third-pairing, as well as being a reliable fixture on the penalty kill.
While he is useless in producing any kind of offense, Murray's $2.5 million price tag for only one more season is sure to gauge quite a bit of interest.
Contract status: $3.6 million, one year remaining.
Clowe is a gritty top-six forward who has seen better years. With an attractive price tag of $3.6 million for one more year, the Sharks could get a nice return should they decide to trade the struggling forward who has spent his entire career in San Jose.
Should Clowe bounce back next season during his contract year, he would be at that all-important early-30s age-mark where players are looking for their last big payday. A deal which would likely include multiple years the Sharks might not be willing to dole out.
Although his value will not be as high this summer as it was in past years, Clowe could easily fetch a bevy of picks and prospects as player with a full year left on his contract.
Contract status: No-movement clause.
There are a lot of mixed feelings regarding Jumbo Joe.
If you're a Sharks fan, you probably love him. If you're from Boston, you are glad he's gone and somehow equate his trade to the Bruins winning the Cup last season. Casual fans either think of him as a top-playmaker or a big time choker.
In previous seasons, Thornton has carried his teams to the playoffs only to let them down during big games. Along with longtime Sharks Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov, Thornton was a scapegoat until last season when he performed admirably as the Sharks' best player, pushing his team all the way to their second consecutive Western Conference finals.
Thornton's contract is the most difficult to move of all the players listed. He makes the most money, and like Marleau, has a no-movement clause which the Sharks seem to hand out like candy.
Put simply, the Sharks would be a much worse team without Joe, but on the flip side he would garner more attention than anyone else offered. Thornton would also net the Sharks the biggest return of all players offered.
Thornton is currently on the hook for two more years at a manageable $7 million per-season. A team that is ready to go for it all, or looking to vastly improve their squad would gladly offer the farm to get Thornton.
If the Sharks intend to rebuild and restock the farm, it ultimately begins with trading of Thornton. Instead of asking for a bunch of useless roster players like the Boston Bruins did when trading him, the Sharks would be wise to ask for top prospects in return, which they would assuredly get.