The San Jose Sharks are facing another tough offseason.
This is nothing new. Over the past three seasons, the team has faced significant salary cap restraints, and General Manager Doug Wilson has managed to keep the team atop the Pacific Division.
In 2008, the team lost its best defenceman, Brian Campbell, to free agency. Through trades and free agent signings, Wilson upgraded from Campbell to Dan Boyle, from Craig Rivet to Rob Blake, and from Matt Carle to Brad Lukowich (yes, at the time that was an upgrade—an exchange of seven fewer points for a plus-minus 20 points higher).
In 2009, the team upgraded from Lukowich with Niclas Wallin, from Marcel Goc to Scott Nichol, from Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo to Dany Heatley and Logan Couture, who stepped up from the system. Those upgrades made up for the loss from Ehrhoff to Kent Huskins, as signing Manny Malhotra and Jed Ortmeyer made up for losing Mike Grier and Travis Moen.
In 2010, the Sharks lost more important talents in Malhotra, Blake and goalie Evgeni Nabokov, but remained contenders with the early signings of Antti Niemi and Jamal Mayers combined with the emergence of Jason Demers. Throw in late season additions of Ian White, Kyle Wellwood, and Ben Eager, and if anything the Sharks were better than the previous year.
Can Wilson work his magic again in the summer of 2011? Check out the following link to a companion piece on expected roster moves after we examine the Sharks situation under a few assumptions:
- All cap figures from CapGeek.com are accurate. This is at least 99 percent likely.
- The salary cap goes up as expected, topping $62 million for 2011-12. This would give the Sharks seven forwards, five defencemen and two goalies under contract and leave them about $10 million to sign the remaining five forwards and three defencemen they will absolutely need.
- The Sharks are unable to trade away any big contracts or absorb any new ones. While a lot of Sharks fans are calling out Heatley, unless he waives the no-trade clause or is simply released without return, he will be a Shark in 2012. The fact that he played through a sprained ankle and broken hand also means that reports of his demise may be premature.
The only other player the Sharks should even consider trading away is backup goalie Antero Niittymaki. If they can replace him with a young backup with even a little NHL experience like Alex Stalock or Thomas Greiss, it is worth anything gotten in return so they have an extra $1 million to round out the roster.
Even with that extra $1 million, this team will need some classic Wilson steals in free agency.