The San Jose Sharks have signed all the players they can. In fact, according to Hockey Buzz, they are $225,000 over the cap, meaning they may have to trade someone or buy out a contract to get under the cap.
Kyle McLaren is almost the only candidate for either. Most of the roster is filled with players who will not be of much appeal to other teams, or players the Sharks have shown a short- or long-term commitment to.
Unfortunately, McLaren's salary and injury troubles make him unappealing for potential trading partners, and the Sharks are not deep enough on the blue line to buy him out without picking up someone with NHL experience. If the team gets rid of Mac, only Derek Joslin—a 21-year-old defenseman with no NHL experience—is even arguably ready to step into the lineup in case of injury.
For purposes of this analysis, I will assume they will be able to re-work some of the money to keep everyone they have, since the gap is so small. I project the following lines (LW-C-RW), with the following goal, assist, and plus-minus levels in parentheses:
- Michalek (25, 25, +10), Thornton (25, 60, +12), Cheechoo (30, 20, +10)
- Marleau (25, 30, even), Pavelski (20, 25, +5), Setoguchi (15, 20, even)
- Clowe (20, 20, +5), Mitchell (10, 15, +5), Grier (10, 20, +5)
- Shelley (2, 10, even), Goc (10, 10, even), Roenick (10, 15, even)
I also see Tomas Plihal getting in at least 20 games and scoring a goal or two with a handful of points overall, and Tom Cavanagh should get in a dozen or so games and score a point. I would even expect to see Riley Armstrong play in a game or two.
As for the defense, I would expect to see Kyle McLaren play in 40+ games and score a dozen or more points. I also think we will see Derek Joslin in a Sharks uniform for a few games at some point, and because he was up to a five points/seven games pace, he should score his first NHL point. I project the following for the rest of the defense:
- Boyle (15, 40, +5)-Lukowich (5, 20, +10)
- Blake (10, 30, +5)-Vlassic (4, 16, +5)
- Murray (2, 10, +5)-Ehrhoff (8, 30, even)
Finally, I expect Nabokov to play about 55-60 of the 82 games and have 30-35 wins, with a GAA under 2.25 and a save percentage over .910. Boucher should play enough games to get 10-12 wins, finish under 2.50 GAA, and have over a .900 save percentage.
I would not be surprised if the Sharks do not get even a finalist for any award, but Thornton should be in the discussion for the Hart and Pearson, as well as maybe the Selke. McLellan will get consideration for the Adams, as well—but no Shark will bring home any hardware from the regular season.
However, I will predict Nabokov will be rested enough to shine in the playoffs and win the Conn Smythe. That's the only one that matters to me, or any of the team.