Part of the key to getting a good trade is having something of value to give another team. That is one reason I proposed trading Christian Ehrhoff over Douglas Murray—being more skilled and two years younger more than compensates for a cap figure $600,000 higher.
Another key is looking at how much depth you have with that player’s assets. Ehrhoff is only the third-best skating defenceman the Sharks have, but Murray is its only hitter—you need guys to fill all the roles.
In other words, Ehrhoff is going to have a higher trade value, is more expendable, and will bring more cap relief—the trifecta.
However, even after making the suggested trade, the Sharks are two forwards short of a complete roster, plus a bit short of having the cap room to make Thomas Greiss their backup goalie. Thus, the general manager still has work to do.
Sending down a more expensive player and replacing him with a cheaper minor-leaguer is not really an option. Not only are there few minor leaguers ready to step up, but there are few players the Sharks can send down for fear of losing them on waivers or missing their vital contributions.
This means another trade is going to have to take place. But who else on the team offers significant return but can be replaced by the Sharks?
Jonathan Cheechoo. He is still young enough to have a significant career ahead of him, works hard, and is a former Richard Trophy winner as the league’s top goal scorer.
That is exactly why he would be tough to give up. But while his $3 million a year contract over the next two seasons could give the Sharks valuable cap space and certainly is more than his current play is worth, it is still a reasonable price to pay for a team that is looking for a checking line forward who might well return to form as a scorer.
What the Sharks are looking for is a cheaper checking line forward who can allow them to fit Brad Staubitz and Torrey Mitchell under the cap. If they can ship off Jody Shelley and get a better or cheaper enforcer, they may add him to the pot. If not, they should be looking to get a Day Two draft pick in addition for their sacrifice.
With that in mind, the following are a list of teams (in order of likelihood) and what they could potentially offer the Sharks in return for the pride of Moose Factory, Canada:
- Tampa Bay Lightning: Jeff Halpern makes $1 million less than Cheech and is a superior penalty-killing, checking-line centre. He would upgrade the Sharks defence and still be capable of putting up points, scoring 16 on a bad team in 2008-09. And because he is four years older than Cheech and playing for a team in rebuilding, the Sharks should be able to get a third-round choice, as well.
- Toronto Maple Leafs: Perhaps former coach Ron Wilson would like to be reunited with his scorer, and Cheech should want to go play for a coach he knows much closer to home. The Sharks could land right wing Jamal Mayers and a second round pick. This move would clear up $1,666,667 in cap space while still giving them a gritty, defensive power forward who can kill penalties, lay wood on the opposition, and score in the teens.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: Cheech would provide the Jackets with missing offence, and they can offer exactly what the Sharks need: Raffi Torres. Sharks fans will remember how Torres’ hit on Milan Michalek changed the Edmonton series, ending San Jose’s most promising playoff run. Torres is a couple years younger than Cheech and provides almost as much offence for $750,000 less, but he has struggled with injuries the past two seasons. Nonetheless, San Jose may have to give up a little extra to get this done. With the Jackets short on the blueline, adding Callahan or Groulx might be enough.
- Edmonton Oilers: Ethan Moreau is beloved in Edmonton, but if the Sharks can pry him away, he provides the missing leadership and grit in a package with a guy who can score some points and costs $1 million less than Cheech. Because he is four years older than Jonathan, he should be attainable without giving up any picks, but if a mid-rounder (or minor leaguer who is not a huge prospect) has to be thrown in to make it happen, so be it.
- Florida Panthers: Steven Reinprecht is another penalty-killing centre making $950,000 less than Cheech. Because Reinprecht is actually a year younger and scored more points, the Sharks would have to give something up to make this happen. However, whether that be prospects (Florida is in need of help on the blueline, so perhaps newly-signed Joe Callahan or Danny Groulx?) and/or draft picks, it is worth it to get a better player who costs less money.
In any of these trades, the Sharks clear enough money to get at least one more player under the cap plus getting Greiss in uniform. If the trigger were pulled on the trade with Toronto, San Jose’s active roster could be completed.
Moreover, with a more productive enforcer in the lineup, Shelley would become expendable. I would then move him for a more skilled or cheaper players.
But that would be just the first of more moves designed to make room for some emergency players in the press box for each game. In my next piece, I will outline the rest of the moves I would make to get the roster filled and the team under the cap.