San Jose Sharks: Draft & Free Agency: What Will Doug Wilson Do?

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San Jose Sharks: Draft & Free Agency: What Will Doug Wilson Do?
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With the NHL free agency period right around the corner, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has some decisions to make heading into Friday's draft.

Despite the fact that the Sharks have placed an extraordinary effort into their development system, they currently do not have a first round selection in this year's draft.

If the Sharks are keen on changing that fact, the most likely scenario in which to make that happen is a trade involving their captain, Patrick Marleau.

Trading into the first round would require the Sharks to give up some current NHL talent but don't expect Wilson to give up any of his core young players.

Young guns such as Milan Michalek, Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, Torrey Mitchell, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Douglas Murray should all be "untouchable."

Every single player in that list is about to enter their prime and each one can be a force for many years to come. The chances Doug Wilson trades any one of them away is rather unlikely and would leave the Sharks with an enormous hole in their lineup.

Now along with Marleau, the Sharks have a pair of fellow big fish that could be dealt away including Joe Thornton and goal-tender Evgeni Nabokov.

Yes, even though Thornton was just traded to the Sharks in 2005, his continued sub-par playoff performances are enough to consider moving the soon to be 30-year-old London, Ontario native.

However, in all honesty, Doug Wilson cannot trade away Joe Thornton. Not only has Joe been adamant about loving the Bay Area and being a member of the Sharks, but he also has a no-trade clause.

But whether or not Thornton has a no trade clause is a moot point. Despite his playoff disappointments, "Big Joe" still drives the Sharks' offense. The 6'4" 235-pound center is a lock to lead the team in points every season and is a perennial all-star.

When Thornton first came to San Jose in 2005 he saved the team almost single-handedly. The sharks were amidst a 10-game winless streak and the 2005-06 season was looking to be a year to forget for Sharks fans.

But then Thornton came in and won the Art Ross Trophy for most points and the Hart Trophy as MVP of the league.

Even though San Jose has upgraded Thornton's supporting cast drastically since 2005, it is still difficult to see a scenario in which the Sharks could get further than have in recent years without Thornton on the team.

Jumbo Joe, Big Joe, JT, whatever fans like to call him, most would admit that he is still a rock star in the Bay Area.

Thornton is about to enter just his fourth full season with the Sharks and to be fair the best passer in the league has not had a true goal scorer to finish off his passes.

Trading Thornton would be a the wrong move and it would be extremely odd if Doug Wilson were to deal away the player he received in a trade that is still considered one of the biggest steals in NHL history.

The other big fish amongst the Sharks that could be dealt away prior to the draft is none other than goal-tender Evgeni Nabokov.

Despite being considered by many as one of the "elite" goal-tenders in the NHL, Nabokov had a save percentage of .910 in the regular season in '08-'09, which was lower than 23 other goal-tenders who had played 25 or more games.

Not only were Nabokov's regular season numbers less than that of the year before when he was a Vezina trophy candidate, his postseason performance was one to forget.

In six games, Nabokov and the Sharks won just twice and Nabby stopped just 138 out of 155 shots for a save percentage of .890.  Nabokov let in 17 goals for the series, numerous of which were of the fluky variety and of the five-hole variety.

The Sharks goal-tender has also dealt with a recurring groin injury and is entering his mid-30s, his effectiveness as top tier goal-tender may be dwindling.

However, regardless of these issues there are plenty of teams looking for goal-tending and if Nabokov were willing to waive HIS no-trade clause (wow, I'm getting tired of typing that) then the Sharks could part with his rather expensive $5.3 million contract.

Needless to say, after the fourth straight season in which the Sharks failed to get past the second round (three semifinal losses, one quarter-final loss) the roster is due for some significant changes.

However, in order for those changes to take place, Doug Wilson is going to need to move one his rather expensive players to make room for possible free-agent or trade acquisitions.

Rumors are that elite goal scorer Danny Heatley of the Ottawa Senators has requested a trade and the Sharks are one of seven teams the winger listed of approved destinations.

Heatley also has a hefty contract and a trade would almost have to include either Marleau, Thornton or Nabokov in order to meet the salary cap.

But even if the Sharks don't make another block buster trade, they need to deal away one of the big three to make room under the salary cap. 

In order for the Sharks to be able to make offers to the current free agent crop that includes many big names, quality role players, and the top Swedish Elite League goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, they are going to need to shed some salary.

If I were a betting man, I would expect that Doug Wilson will do whatever it takes to acquire a first round pick and that will most likely include dealing away Patrick Marleau.

The trade would not only create some room under the salary cap so Doug Wilson can pursue free-agents, but it will also give the Sharks another first-round selection to add to the strong minor-league system already in place.

Expect Doug Wilson to work his magic over the next couple of weeks, just like he did last year when acquiring Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich from Tampa Bay last July.

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