San Jose Sharks: 5 Forwards Team Should Target
The NHL entry draft and the free-agent frenzy are in the rear view mirror, and San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has yet to address his club's most pressing need: speed and scoring depth at the forward position.
San Jose's defense appears to be set and its goaltending tandem of Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss will likely remain intact, but their forward ranks are in desperate need of a retool.
Outside of veteran forward Patrick Marleau, the team's top six contains no above-average skaters and no high-end snipers. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that the Sharks don't have a clear-cut third line at this point in time.
Here are five forwards who would address these weaknesses and improve San Jose's speed and scoring depth up front.
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He's coming off a 31-goal campaign in which he registered 57 points in 82 games and netted a career-high 34 goals and 71 points for Anaheim in 2010-11.
Ryan provides exactly what the Sharks are lacking in their top six: a physical, speedy winger with goal-scoring prowess. His youth and reasonable cap hit make him all the more attractive to a team whose top players are steadily approaching the ends of their careers.
The cost to acquire Ryan from the Ducks would likely be huge. Anaheim's need for a second-line center would indicate that one of Logan Couture or Joe Pavelski would need to be included in the deal. That may be a price Doug Wilson is unwilling to pay, but if he were to work out a deal for the young winger that didn't cripple the team in other areas, the Sharks would be adding a lot of firepower to their top six.
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In terms of pure talent, Alexander Semin is far and away the best free agent on the market. He had a disappointing season in 2011-12, posting just 21 goals and 33 assists, but the skilled Russian put up 84 points in just 73 games in 2009-10 and registered 54 points in 65 games the following year.
The reason why Semin wasn't snatched up along with the other top free agents earlier this week is because of the several supposed character issues he has. He has been called "soft," "lazy" and "selfish" and is often regarded as one of the most inconsistent and enigmatic players in the NHL.
These red flags, coupled with the fact that the Sharks place a huge emphasis on character and heart, make the likelihood of Semin joining the club extremely low. Still, if they run out of other options, Semin is a world-class player with speed and a terrific shot. He would instantly make San Jose a more dynamic team in the offensive zone.
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Michael Grabner enjoyed a breakout season in 2010-11 with the New York Islanders when he notched 34 goals in 76 games as a rookie. However, he followed that up with a disappointing 2011-12 season, scoring just 20 goals.
The 24-year-old winger is one of the fastest skaters in the league and has undeniable offensive upside that he has yet to reach.
Because he's played just two and a half seasons in the NHL and only played well during one of them, Grabner is a bit of a question mark. He has shown the ability to be a high-end goal-scorer capable of potting 40 goals a year, but has also struggled with consistency. This makes him a difficult to player to gauge the value of, and he may not be the ideal trade target for a team looking to contend for the Stanley Cup now.
Still, his skill set is a perfect match for the Sharks. He's extremely fast, he's a winger and he has a nose for the net. He's also young and signed long-term at a reasonable $3 million cap hit.
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A top-10 pick from the 2006 entry draft, Peter Mueller is a young forward with loads of potential who has yet to put it all together at the NHL level.
He put together an impressive rookie season in 2007-08 when he tallied 54 points, but his production tailed off the following year (36 points) and he has been unable to stay healthy ever since.
Mueller played just 32 games for the Colorado Avalanche this past season, potting seven goals and adding nine assists for 16 points. Colorado chose not to re-sign him at the end of the year and he's now an unrestricted free agent.
At 24, Mueller has plenty of time to find his game again and become the top-six forward he's capable of being. His recent injuries are a concern, but he may be worth the risk should the Sharks sign him to a cheap, short-term contract. The talent is there and he wouldn't cost any assets to acquire.
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Perhaps the most realistic potential acquisition on this list, Shane Doan is a 35-year-old unrestricted free agent with grit, strong two-way play and plenty of intangibles. He captained the Phoenix Coyotes to the Western Conference Finals in 2011-12 and produced a respectable 50 points during the regular season.
Doan is a heart-and-soul player who plays hard night in and night out. He may not light it up on the scoresheet or dazzle fans with finesse, but he is the type of player teams need in order to win championships.
He still has enough offensive ability to hold down a spot on a club's top two lines, and the fact that he's a right wing makes him an ideal fit for San Jose, whose only natural right wing is Martin Havlat.
If he can be had for the right price, Doan would look outstanding on San Jose's first line alongside Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. He may also provide the team with the heart and intensity they have been in need of in years past.
Sam Kelly is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @samkelly10.