It all started last June with a trade of top-six forward Devin Setoguchi, top prospect Charlie Coyle and a first-round draft pick in exchange for Brent Burns and a second-round pick. Then the Sharks traded Dany Heatley's bloated contract to Minnesota for Martin Havlat's smaller but equally overvalued deal.
Those were the two biggest trades in the summer of 2011, both also involving the Wild. San Jose also sent a third-round pick to Minnesota for James Sheppard, who never played a game for the team and is a restricted free agent in 2012.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson added three more trades leading up to the deadline this past winter.
First he sent a minor-league defenseman for a minor-league forward. Then he sent the second-round pick he received from the Wild for Dominic Moore. Finally, he traded Jamie McGinn for T.J. Galiardi and Danniel Winnik (plus two prospects for a late-round pick as part of the deal).
None of those moves worked for San Jose. They went from being the second seed in the Western Conference a year ago to the seventh, and from the Conference Finals to being eliminated in five games.
Not all of the onus can be placed on the trades. For most of them, there are too many variables to even grade who was the winner and who was the loser.
Havlat is younger than Heatley, and could have a better ending to his career. Burns is definitely better than Setoguchi, and even prospects as promising as Coyle do not always make it.
Draft picks are even less predictable, making those trades even harder to define. The Sharks could re-sign Sheppard cheaply, and the former ninth overall pick in the 2006 draft should be better than whomever the Wild picks in the middle of the third round. (My next article will examine the Moore trade, including how it could still work for San Jose.)
But the one trade we already know to be a bust is the deadline deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
For one thing, the Sharks had depth but lacked forwards capable of playing on the top two lines. So they give up their seventh-best forward (and arguably their fifth-best) for two players who had to fight for playing time on the third (Winnik) and fourth (Galiardi) lines?
After the trade, McGinn had four more goals, three more assists and an extra game-winner on 25 fewer shots in 18 fewer games than the combination of Winnik and Galiardi.
Of course, the Avs forwards were acquired for their defensive prowess, not scoring. But then, McGinn had more hits than either forward, and far more blocks than Galiardi, despite the fact that scheduling disparities between the teams cost him several games played.
McGinn's play will get him a bigger contract, but as a restricted free agent it is hard to see how the Sharks would have been unable to afford him. Logan Couture was signed for under $6 million over two years, so there is no way McGinn commands over $2 million a year to stay in San Jose.
As an unrestricted free agent, Winnik (by far the lesser player) will probably command a similar amount should the Sharks decide to keep him. Galiardi is also restricted, and the team can re-sign him for cheap, but they may not want to, as he was a healthy scratch nine times in 26 games including the playoffs.
And here is the kicker: McGinn is younger than either of the other forwards.
This means the Sharks gave up the best player, the youngest player and the second-most affordable player to keep. In the process, they all but ended Benn Ferriero's chance to develop through NHL experience.
In other words, they sacrificed the future and the present, making this the single worst trade in Wilson's eight years as GM: At least when he gave up first-round picks for rentals Bill Guerin in 2007 and Brian Campbell in 2008, they got a short-term return for mortgaging the future.