Is it the summer of 2011 all over again? Or are we in a completely overrated, campy Bill Murray film?
No, the San Jose Sharks just keep playing the same tune. They have upgraded their blue line in late June and early August, but lost forward depth.
How did that work out for them last year? They dropped from the second to the seventh seed, winning just one playoff game compared to the previous season's nine.
For a second consecutive summer, they are going into August lacking veteran blue-line depth. Last season they appeared to lock that up with the late signing of Colin White to a one-year, $1 million deal.
He turned out to be a disaster—the only Shark to play over 10 games and rate below zero in goals versus threshold at Hockey Prospectus. This measures the team's goal differential on a player's shifts vs. the average replacement player.
Yes, he rated worse than the average defenceman sitting in the press box watching his team as a healthy scratch. San Jose could have welcomed back Scott Hannan for the same money and gotten much more—he rated nearly 400 players better for the same money.
The Sharks are saving cap room for an upgrade at forward, whether via trade or free agency. But they need a cheap insurance policy on their blue line.
It is almost unheard of for a team to play only seven defencemen in an entire season. Not once in any of the 14 seasons for which Sharks stats are available for on the team site.
In Todd McLellan's four seasons, the Sharks have used between eight and 10 defenceman throughout the season. Between 12 and 48 total games were played by those not ranking among the top-seven Sharks defencemen in that category.
The seventh player will get a lot of playing time. But the eighth will not and therefore cannot be a young player the team is hoping to develop.
San Jose needs a veteran willing to accept a substitute role. Such a player would sign a budget-friendly contract and provide a known quantity through dozens of games, not compete for playing time when the unit is healthy.
There have been players signed to such contracts by a new team that fit the Sharks' needs (check this link to see five more still out there). Some of them signed two-way contracts, meaning they could have been freely sent to the minors.
It is hard to imagine the Sharks could not have gotten most of them for similar money to their contracts elsewhere. Here are the five I would have gone after and what they signed elsewhere.