After all the dust has settled, the San Jose Sharks should possess the talent needed to go deep in the playoffs again in 2012.
The following link shows that their defence is set. Thus, the lines projected below give the Sharks one of the strongest sets of forwards in the league:
1. Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Dany Heatley gives the team a skater, playmaker and shooter on the top line. The Big Three can all be counted on for 80 goals and 200 points collectively and are strong defensively.
2. Ryane Clowe-Logan Couture-Joe Pavelski gives the Sharks a bruising playmaker, scorer and jack-of-all-trades who will all score 20-plus goals and get 60-plus points. All three are very good defensively, and can be counted on to shut down other teams' top lines while producing themselves.
3. The team needs to use its remaining cap space to sign a left-handed checking line winger. Most such players (Adam Hall, Pascal Dupuis, Maxim Lapierre) so far have earned $1 million-plus, meaning they will fit with a little breathing room.
Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Wellwood give the Sharks a skater and playmaker who are all above-average defensively. Adding a player such as Sean Bergenheim, John Madden, Rob Niedermayer or Vernon Fiddler give the Sharks a penalty killer who is also a potential scorer.
4. Jamie McGinn-Andrew Desjardins-Benn Ferriero would be the most likely fourth line, given they saw time in the playoffs. McGinn is a physical player and shot-blocker who can do the dirty work for the line, while Desjardins and Ferriero have shown potential offensively.
This leaves John McCarthy (37 GP, 2G, 2A, minus-8 in 2010-11), Brandon Mashinter (13 GP, minus-2, 17 PIM), Frazer McLaren (9, minus-1, 22), and Tommy Wingels (5, minus-1) in reserve. In all likelihood, the two with the smallest salaries would be scratched on a daily basis while the others played in the minors.
The perception is that seeding does not matter in the playoffs. But the Stanley Cup has not been won by a team that finished lower than the fourth seed since 1995, when the fifth-seeded New Jersey Devils won.
Only the Pittsburgh Penguins have won it since then without winning their division, and the last five teams to represent the Western Conference have all been top-two seeds. The Sharks need every win they can get all year long, and that is why every bit of cap space should be spent from the start.