Last season, the San Jose Sharks got Antti Niemi after free agency died down
Over 60 hours into free agency, there had been little activity from the San Jose Sharks.
Two players signed and four lost. And they had just 23 players with even a full game of NHL experience under contract.
Once they fill out the roster with all of those players, they would have had just over $1.4 million in cap space. They also had a mediocre-at-best third line and an all-rookie fourth line.
Worse, they had a dearth of depth if they ran into injuries. Not one player behind the top-23 was presumed ready to step up, and a full line of those 23 (three forwards and two on the blueline) have 61 games of NHL experience between them.
So on Sunday night, they made another blockbuster trade that created more cap space (see link for more) so they could fill out their roster.
With $2.5 million in extra room, they now have $4 million-plus to work with. Considering whoever they sign will replace someone on the roster, San Jose could spend $5 million or more.
In other words, no one remaining is out of reach. Because an earlier article advocated replacing Antero Niittymaki with a cheaper alternative (perhaps no longer necessary), this piece will focus on moves designed to help improve skating talent.
Note: They are listed in order of highest to lowest cap hit in 2010-11, not best to worst option. Each slide has a limit on how much they are worth to the Sharks.
At 36 years old, Jason Arnott is not worth the $4.5 million he was paid last season.
Still, Arnott has gas left in the tank. His addition to the Washington Capitals helped them achieve the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
He possesses Stanley Cup champion leadership qualities and is an asset on both ends of the ice. The centre can be a big body in front of the net, and scored 31 points in 73 games last season.
If the Sharks can get him for about $2 million per year, he would be a welcome addition to what would become a dangerous third line. He would probably see time on the second power play unit.
His signing would give the Sharks two players who could play on the top two lines in the event of injury. They could then move the offensively-challenged Jamie McGinn to the fourth line, providing it with a veteran presence (he has over three times as many games as all other potential fourth line forwards combined).
The 32-year old former Shark would be right at home, having left four years ago for a lucrative four-year, $18 million contract.
But the familiarity with some players, management, the HP Pavilion and the Bay Area is not the reason to sign Scott Hannan. Despite proving he is not worth a big contract, he is still in the top quarter of the league in his own end.
Hannan is relatively physical, a decent skater and experienced enough to play within his game and know where to be. He battles hard and has not missed more than seven games since becoming a full-time starter 10 seasons ago.
He will not score many points, last seeing 20 in 2007-08 and peaking at 24 in his last two seasons with the Sharks. But he would help the Sharks penalty kill that struggled last season.
If San Jose can get him for under $2.5 million, he would be making the fifth-most on the blueline and would be its fifth or sixth best player. His talents would compliment those of Jason Demers and give the Sharks three good pairs; with Jim Vandermeer as the seventh defenceman, this would be among the top five or six units in the league.
Another leader with Stanley Cup-winning experience, Cory Stillman would be a great addition to the Sharks third line and possibly power play.
At 37, he would have to accept considerably less than the $3.5 million he made in 2010-11. He scored 39 points in 65 games last season, and would be worth a one-year rental if it is less than $2 million.
While he does not possess Jason Arnott's size or faceoff prowess that the Sharks covet, he is adept enough around the net to be on the power play. He thus upgrades the Sharks in every other way stated for Arnott.
Craig Rivet is another former Sharks defenceman they should consider bringing back. While a member of the team for a shorter period of time, he was actually a teammate of more current players.
Rivet is also a battler and a leader like Hannan. He is probably better on the offensive end, too.
But at 36, he is beginning to break down. He missed only eight games in his last season with the Sharks (2007-08), but missed 22 over the next two seasons and 45 last year.
That is why he managed just four points, but that also should make him cheap to acquire. Given the Sharks having seven other capable defencemen, it may be worth rolling the dice that he could give the Sharks 60-plus games as a fifth or sixth defenceman at about $1.5 million.
Jamie Langenbrunner is a solid two-way player who would be fantastic on the Sharks third line. He is a character guy with championship experience.
At 35, he has a couple good years left in him. He scored 32 points in 70 games last season when his cap hit was $2.8 million.
Thus, if the Sharks can sign him to a one- or two-year contract worth under $2 million per year, he would be a welcome addition.
Sergei Samsonov possesses speed the Sharks needed to combat the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Finals. He also has a scoring touch the third line could use, with 40 points in 78 games last season.
He is not nearing the end of his career at 32 years old, either. But he is small and would thus be a bit of a defensive liability on a checking line that already has speed.
That being said, his linemates are exceptional defensive players and that line would be at least average on both ends of the ice. If the team can get him for less than $2 million (his cap hit was $2.8 in 2010-11), he is worth a look.
Two seasons ago, Vinny Prospal suffered the humiliation of having his contract bought out when he hit a seven-year low in points. Thus, while his cap hit was $2.48 million for 2010-11, he was paid just over $1 million by the New York Rangers.
He played in only 29 games last season, but scored 23 points. He also scored one of the rare goals for the Rangers in their five-game first-round series against the Washington Capitals.
In fact, he has scored no fewer than 45 points in any season after 2000-01. Last season was the first time since the 1997-98 season in which he missed more than eight games.
While the 36-year old centre would be a considerable defensive liability, as stated previously that could be covered by his linemates. There is little doubt he will command more than what the Rangers paid him last year, but likely enough he would be available for about $1.5 million, and if so it is worthwhile for the Sharks to consider signing him.
Not only is Antti Miettinen a good skater with some scoring ability, but he has played with newcomers Brent Burns and Martin Havlat. He knows the Pacific Division from his days in Dallas, and at 31 has a lot of good years left in him.
Miettinen scored 35 points in 73 games on an offensively-challenged team, the fewest in his three seasons there. Since becoming a full-time starter after the lockout, he has posted 211 points in 456 games, missing just 36 over those six years.
As a solid two-way player, he is worth at least close to what he made last season ($2,333,333). However, his playoff numbers are not good (five points in 24 games).
In addition, he may well be offered more money or a longer deal by another team than he would be worth on a Sharks squad that may be looking at a two-year window for winning a championship. Those teams would likely be seeking a bigger role for him than the Sharks would, and for that reason he is unlikely to score as much in San Jose as he did in Minnesota.
Brent Sopel was an invaluable part of the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup run of 2010. With injuries to their blueline, he stepped in as part of the second pair and ate up minutes Joel Quenneville did not want to give to a questionable third pair.
One of the team's many cap casualties in 2010-11 to be signed by the Atlanta Thrashers, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the deadline to help with their playoff run. However, he contributed little, scoring no points and playing in just 12 games (seven points in 71 games total).
That coupled with the 35 candles that will be on his cake at mid-season should bring his cap hit down from last year's $2,333,333 (he actually made $2 million).
If so, he would be a perfect fit for the Sharks. Not only is he a known penalty killer and shot blocker, but he is rarely in the box (319 penalty minutes in 658 games) himself.
A former top pick for the San Jose Sharks, Steve Bernier is only 26 years old. He made just $2 million in 2010-11 because he has not been the same since leaving San Jose.
In 2005-06, he made his way onto the Sharks second line in the latter half of the season. His size and scoring touch (25 points in 37 games) behind Richard-winner Jonathan Cheechoo gave the Sharks a young one-two punch at right wing that made them look more set at the position than any other team in the league.
Unfortunately, each turned out to be a mirage. The Edmonton Oilers shut both down in the second round of that year's playoffs; 54 points over 121 games later, the Sharks traded Bernier along with a first-round draft pick to get Brian Campbell at the trade deadline.
Since then, Bernier has 78 points in 225 games. But there is a good chance he will cost about $1 million, and would be worth it to give the fourth line experience. He might even recapture a little of what has been missing since leaving, in which case he would be a welcome bargain addition to the third line.
Yet another leader with championship experience, John Madden has won Cups with Chicago and New Jersey. He also played with Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, and Antti Miettinen last season.
At 38, his best years are behind him. But even a little above the salary he made last season ($1.25 million), he is probably worth bringing in for a year.
He scored 25 points in 76 games with the offensively-challenged Minnesota Wild, but likely would play a different role for San Jose. The former Selke winner is still a fantastic defensive centre who would be a huge boost to the penalty kill that struggled last season.
Kyle Wellwood was a tremendous addition to the San Jose Sharks last January. In 35 games with the club, he scored five goals and had eight assists on the third line.
His defence was better than advertised, and his playmaking skills worked well with Torrey Mitchell's speed and Joe Pavelski's scoring. He would likely lack the scorer on the 2011-12 third line, but his return would bring continuity to a team that is the only one in the league to reach the conference finals in each of the last two seasons.
At 28 years old, he has presumably not peaked. However, it looks as though the 40-point seasons of 2005-06 and 2006-07 in Toronto were from a player Wellwood can no longer be.
That being said, he does have a respectable 86 points in 243 games since and 20 points in 40 career playoff games. He could fill in on the second line in the event of injuries and upgrade the third line to the top half of the league.
He will earn considerably more than the pro-rated portion of the $650,000 annual contract he was paid last season. But he is worth bringing back if the Sharks can get him for around $1.5 million.