Doug Wilson may well be trading right through this NHL Draft Weekend
Understand that this is what Todd McLellan and Doug Wilson have already done. These decisions have already been made, but have not yet played out. Wilson has already revealed he will let five or six free agents go this summer.
Six unrestricted free agents were role players for the Sharks. Another is a good NHL backup goalie, and three more might be able to play at an NHL level in an emergency. This is where the releases need to be made.
How many points in the standings will Dominic Moore (arguably the best unrestricted free agent available to the Sharks) bring than Benn Ferriero, who he would displace from the active roster? How many goals is Moore going to prevent by himself over T.J. Galiardi, who he will displace on the penalty kill?
And remember, those restricted free agents will cost half of what unrestricted free agents will, leaving the Sharks more money to spend elsewhere. That is why I would not sign a single unrestricted free agent currently under contract by San Jose.
I would pool that money together to get a top-six forward, even if he plays on the third line until the next time a top-six is hurt. Or I would trade either Jason Demers or Douglas Murray to make it happen, or dump Patrick Marleau to make room for two top-six forwards.
But, assuming there are no trades, and the re-signing of Justin Braun I have already advocated, they obviously will not re-sign Antero Niittymaki.
But what if no trade is worthwhile? Where does that leave the team, even if they re-sign all their restricted free agents to reasonable contracts?
Adding Braun to the blue line gives that unit seven good NHL players, with Taylor Doherty having a chance at some playing time. In an emergency, they would have Matt Pelech and maybe even Nick Petrecki ready to step up
The blue line would be set.
They have no reason to re-sign unrestricted free agents like Matt Irwin or Mike Moore to fill the emergency role. They could safely let Colin White and Jim Vandermeer walk via free agency. San Jose may want to dress seven defensemen, allowing them to sit their weakest forward.
As long as they stay healthy, the Sharks top-six forwards have proven they can handle their roles. But would the Sharks struggle for a third straight year with play from its role-players?
Michal Handzus, Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels are legitimate third-line forwards, but that line lacks a standout unless Wingels makes the jump. James Sheppard flanked by T.J. Galiardi and Benn Ferriero offers a decent fourth line.
But behind them would only be Tim Kennedy, Brad Mashinter and Frazer McLaren as band-aid solutions. Thus, here are five of their own unrestricted free agent forwards the Sharks have to decide whether or not to bring back for depth.
Ben Guite signed last season for $525,000, but the San Jose Sharks only had to pay him $105,000 because he never made it to the NHL. At 33 years old, why even consider bringing him back?
Because he will cost almost nothing. Because he has 174 games of NHL experience, during which he scored a respectable 45 points.
Then again, for a franchise that claims to have lost $15 million last season, saving over $100,000 might make more sense. If Guite provided a real emergency option, that would be fine, but his days of being a player who can fill in for even a few games without the team suffering for it may be over.
John McCarthy had the same contract that Ben Guite had last season, but he played 10 games for the San Jose Sharks. The 25-year-old has played in 51 games over the last three seasons, with two goals and two assists.
Despite less experience, he would make a far better emergency option than his older counterpart. He should continue to develop as a player, and there would be less competition for playing time than the fourth-line-heavy Sharks have offered him in recent years.
But since anyone giving him an NHL contract will offer the minimum, he may have a better chance to play more for the same pay elsewhere. The Sharks should also be able to do better than a player who will likely never be more than a fourth-line forward.
Torrey Mitchell is a bit of an enigma.
He scores highlight reel goals and then goes for long stretches without so much as an assist. He is a tremendous skater whose tenacious defense makes him an ideal penalty killer, but his best year killing penalties was his rookie season.
In fact, his best everything was his rookie season. He reached the NHL so fast but is still nothing more than a role-player. At 27 there is still hope he could grow, but little reason to think he will.
Mitchell scored a point per four games and was minus-six last season. Guys like that can be found anywhere and for very little. But if Mitchell is willing to sign for around $1 million, he would still be a small upgrade over an alternative who is likely not much younger.
Brad Winchester signed a one-year, $725,000 contract with the San Jose Sharks last season.
He earned his money with six goals and four assists while playing most of his 67 games on the fourth line. He provided the Sharks with an edge they lacked and was willing and able to stand up for his teammates.
At 31 years old he has plenty of hockey left in him. He can provide something the team can use, and offer them an alternative lineup, as he will not need constant playing time to stay sharp.
If the team can re-sign him for something comparable to last year's contract, and there are plenty of other spots for developing players, why not?
Daniel Winnik is the only good free agent choice the San Jose Sharks can re-sign.
At 27, his best years remain ahead of him. Yet he already scores almost as much as the older Dominic Moore (reliable for 20-plus points per season), and has substantially more hits, blocked shots and takeaways.
That is why he was the top forward for the Colorado Avalanche in time on ice shorthanded. That means he is younger, significantly better defensively and almost as good offensively. He played better with the Sharks last season and might not cost anything more.
And while Mitchell is the same age, Winnik's numbers are a little better on both ends. The only other choice might be Winchester because the team wants more edge, but Winnik is not without that either.
If the Sharks must re-sign one of their own unrestricted free agents, it must be Winnik. If they do not add a top-six forward, they may need Winnik anyway.