The San Jose Sharks face some big questions heading into the offseason, having lost the last two consecutive Western Conference Finals. Making a third consecutive appearance is a feat only accomplished four times in league history, and the Sharks need to take the next step forward in order to make their first Stanley Cup Final.
With a host of free agents to consider, the Sharks must improve their depth as well as add the defender that can make the difference in their quest for the Stanley Cup.
The crop of UFA defenseman isn’t very deep, and the Sharks could get swept up in a bidding war for the services of a defender like Eric Brewer. Alternately, the Sharks could trade for the impact defender they need but mortgage some of the team’s youth and future in doing so.
One area where the available free agents could find their place in San Jose is on the Sharks' depth pairings, where Huskins and Wallin’s possible departures could leave a void.
Begin the slideshow to take a look at some bold trades that could get the Sharks where they want to go.
All statistics are referenced from behindthenet.ca and salary cap numbers from capgeek.com
After a promising start to his career, Zach Bogosian has fallen out of favor in Atlanta, but he has a great shot from the point and excellent mobility. And with his size, he’s not afraid of delivering the hit, but he can be a little overaggressive, leading to blown defensive assignments.
Bogosian is one of my dark-horse picks to join San Jose, and he is in dire need of a change of scenery after regressing last year. His numbers won’t be wowing anyone anytime soon, with just five goals, 12 assists and a minus-27; but his stats are a tad misleading.
He led the Thrashers in defensive zone starts, while taking just 47.9% of the offensive zone starts, which is odd considering his offensive acumen. He also led the Thrashers defenseman in Quality of Competition and posted a .996 Corsi Rel QoC rating. Given how many defensive zone starts he was assigned, and the competition he took on, he’s clearly not simply a minus-27 player.
With the relocation of the Atlanta franchise to Winnipeg, the Thrashers/Jets could use some scoring up front to go with their young nucleus. Bogosian is a RFA who made $3.375 million last year, and the Thrashers aren’t likely to bring him back considering the multiple key free agents on their roster.
Devin Setoguchi would fit well with the young team, and he could be traded or part of a sign-and-trade for Bogosian and perhaps Anthony Stewart. If not, a second-round draft pick could suffice in acquiring Bogosian’s rights. The problem then becomes what would the Sharks sign him for?
Why the Sharks want him:
Bogosian is just 20 years old, and combined with Jason Demers, the Sharks would have two young, speedy, up-and-coming defensemen for the future. He would play a big role on the second power play unit and provide an immediate boost to the blue line's mobility for San Jose.
Why it might not work:
It’s a bit of a gamble, and Setoguchi is overpay in this situation because Bogosian has an all time-low trade value. But there’s no reason to believe that this couldn’t work. It wouldn’t solve San Jose's need for a shut-down defender, but it would provide the Sharks with mobility, depth and youth in a position that isn’t known for those traits.
Robyn Regehr is an intimidating defender who likes to get nasty and physical and is more than capable of taking on top-two minutes. He relishes the shut-down role and can play a very effective game, especially in one-on-one situations.
Regehr is signed through 2012 at a rate of $4 million, and he posted a strong 1.452 Corsi Rel QoC rating this past year. He may have lost a step and slowed down considerably, but he’s still head and shoulders above Douglas Murray in terms of shot differential and goal differential at even strength, especially against top-notch opposition.
With just four blueliners under contract, and a little more than 500,000 in cap space according to capgeek.com, the Flames have some work to do if they want to re-sign Alex Tanguay.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal and other experts have posed the trade of Setoguchi and Demers for Regehr’s services. This trade is completely feasible from a numbers standpoint and would transform the Sharks defense considerably.
Why the Sharks want him:
Regehr could pair with Dan Boyle to form a new top pairing for the Sharks, allowing Douglas Murray to slide down to the second pair.
More importantly Regehr brings a level of nastiness and physicality to a defensive core and a team not known for that style of play. He’s been a very effective shut-down defender and despite his age, can still play with the best of them. His salary and contract wouldn’t upset the salary cap cart either.
Why it might not work:
Trading away Setoguchi and Demers is a sizeable setback to the team’s developing youth and speed. It would downgrade the skating ability on a roster not known for skate speed and would be the type of move done in order to win now.
Regehr has a no-movement clause in his contract and may not waive it in order to come to San Jose. Setoguchi and Demers could blossom for Calgary and haunt the Sharks for years to come. Can you say Miikka Kiprusoff?
Furthermore, in this scenario Ian White would have to return at a hometown rate, something he sounded open to in post-Game 5 interviews. The only question remaining would be Justin Braun’s ability to lead the breakout on the third pair, and the Sharks' depth needs through free agency.
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher recently stated that anyone on the Wild roster was available via trade, except for Mikko Koivu, according to the Star Tribune.
Burns has great wheels and all the skills, but he hasn’t exactly been a bastion of health in his short career. He had 17 goals and 29 assists a year ago, posting a minus-10 rating while averaging 23 minutes a game.
Selected to his first All-Star Game, Burns is just 26 years old and has a bright future in the NHL. He brings a good first pass, and would be a great fit on the second pair for San Jose, potentially growing into a top-pair role.
After his breakout year, he's a sell-high player, and the Wild don’t have to look back far in their history to see the mistakes they made with Marian Gaborik.
However, he’s had consistency issues in his own end, and his 0.378 Corsi Rel QoC, as well as an unfavorable goals-for : goals-against ratio show that he’s got room to improve.
With a need for offense and four pending UFA wingers, Minnesota wants some scoring to help even out the team's strengths. Setoguchi and Demers may work here, and the numbers agree, but the Wild may ask for Ryane Clowe instead.
Why the Sharks want him:
Burns has good size, exceptional skating ability, is right-handed and can also move to right wing if needed. Depending on what other pieces are moved, Burns could solidify the second pairing, but asking him to take on top-pair minutes is a bit of a stretch at this point for San Jose.
He’s young and affordable at his current cap hit of $3.55 million, and he’s signed through next year.
Why it might not work:
The Wild won’t be making any moves until they find their next head coach, who could ultimately decide that Burns too important to trade away. While Minnesota isn’t known to be big spenders, they could easily clear some space by buying out Cam Barker’s $3 million contract, but they have six UFAs currently on the roster.
Giving up Clowe would almost certainly mean the Sharks would want Burns locked up for the future. After his breakout season, he could command upwards of $5 million per year, which raises further questions about this trade’s feasibility.
Flames General Manager Jay Feaster has been a busy man after officially having the "interim" tag removed from his title. He successfully re-signed Curtis Glencross to a 4-year, $10.2-million deal, but traded away first-round draft pick Tim Erixon to the New York Rangers after inexplicably failing to sign him to a contract.
Feaster definitely has his hands full, as he’s still trying to re-sign Tanguay and must improve the Flames' offense and depth. The Flames have just $500,000 in cap space and several holes to fill on their roster, and trading away Jarome Iginla isn’t likely to go over well with fans.
Bouwmeester is a physical specimen and an excellent skater, and he can play a very efficient defensive game in his own right. But he is coming off a poor year statistically, with just four goals, 20 assists and a minus-2 rating. His Corsi Rel QoC rating of 1.307 is a huge improvement over anything the Sharks have, although his ratio of shots-against : goals-against when on the ice isn’t stellar.
Realistically, Bouwmeester could become Boyle’s successor, but he would fetch a hefty price for a player of his caliber. Joe Pavelski and a draft pick would be where the negotiations start to even begin making sense for either side. The Flames need a center, and the Sharks need a top-2 defender and an up-and-coming Logan Couture lessens the blow of losing Pavelski.
Bouwmeester also has three years remaining on his contract, which includes a no-movement clause, and at $6.68 million annually, he’s not cheap.
Why the Sharks want him:
He’s capable of becoming one of the best defenseman in the league and at just 27 years old, he's entering his prime. Boyle is nearing the end of his career, and Bouwmeester could be a cornerstone player the Sharks build around.
He can eat 30 minutes a night against top-notch opposition, as his QoC rating shows, and he has all the skills needed.
The Sharks were defeated the last two years in the conference finals by teams who were aggressive at improving their team to win now. Pavelski’s trade value has arguably never been higher, he has a good contract and he has plenty of future ahead of him. If you believe the Sharks need to replace Boyle soon, and need a top-2 type of defender, this is a golden opportunity.
Why it might not work :
Do the Sharks really need another large contract with yet another no-movement clause on their roster? Lacking true cap flexibility as it is, Doug Wilson would have to trim the fat from yet another area on the team to make this work. Even with the increased salary cap, Bouwmeester’s cap hit could limit what the Sharks are able to do in free agency to improve depth.
Bouwmeester hasn’t quite enjoyed the same success in Calgary since Darryl Sutter traded for his rights, and isn’t exactly a leader type.
Trading the clutch Joe Pavelski to the Calgary Flames would be a painful move, but you don’t acquire a top 2 defender by giving up nothing.
Obviously, there's quite a bit that has to be sorted out before any calls will be made by Sharks GM Doug Wilson. White's return, along with Wallin, Kent Huskins and the multiple-depth UFAs are all questions that will be answered in the next couple of weeks.
As much of the speculation regarding the Sharks surrounds a trade scenario, fans can almost undoubtedly predict Setoguchi, Pavelski, Clowe or Demers as the ones to go. As much as some may disagree, I have not included Dany Heatley in any of these scenarios because he's not going to be moved.
His no-movement clause, high cap hit and reputation proceed him, and Wilson has cast his lot with Heatley. Trading him now would be admitting a huge mistake and, even if Wilson could find a taker, it would be trading away assets and an all-time low value.
Meaning one of the younger core players is more likely, and while many fans may cringe at the concept of those names leaving, the Sharks have stood pat for the most part and fallen short of their goal.
Learning from the lessons taught against the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks show that the Sharks should get more aggressive in filling their holes. Hopefully Wilson takes heed and increases his pace in acquiring and delivering the guy who takes the Sharks to the next level.