July first has come and gone and the majority of this year's free agent crop have already found new homes throughout the NHL or overseas. The Sharks have been relatively inactive in the free agent market thus far, bringing in only two role players in rugged defenseman Jim Vandermeer (one year at $1 million) and center Michal Handzus (two years at $2.5 million).
General manager Doug Wilson did make a big splash earlier this week in the trade market, however, by trading sniper Dany Heatley to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for speedy winger Martin Havlat. By completing this deal, Wilson freed up $2.5 million in cap space, providing him with enough wiggle room to fill out the Sharks' third and fourth lines and possibly add another depth defenseman.
Here are five players Doug Wilson should try to acquire, either by trade or free agency, that will put his team over the top and into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Jason Chimera brings high-end speed, lots of experience and tremendous leadership. A strong veteran presence is an important part of every hockey team, especially come playoff time, and the Sharks took a major hit in that area when they lost Kent Huskins, Niclas Wallin, Scott Nichol and Jamal Mayers to free agency this offseason. They also lost speed up front when they dealt Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota at the draft, and though Martin Havlat will help make up for that, adding a guy with Chimera's skating ability would go a long way in helping the Sharks make the jump from one of the NHL's slowest teams to one of the fastest.
Chimera is also extremely durable for his age. Veteran players are often very injury prone and end up missing a good chunk of games throughout the season, but Chimera suited up for 81 of 82 games for the Capitals last season.
Oh, one last thing. The guy can still put the biscuit in the basket, as demonstrated by his 10 goals and 16 assists last year for a respectable 26 points. He also posted four points in nine playoff games. For a player that is primarily used as an energy forward and penalty-killer, those are impressive numbers.
Chris Drury, who was considered to be one of the best two-way centers in the NHL during his time with the Buffalo Sabres, has been hampered by lower body injuries for the last few years and was recently bought out by the New York Rangers, making him an unrestricted free agent. He suited up for only 24 games last season for the Rangers and only put up five points (one goal, four assists).
Still, Drury is a heart-and-soul player who possesses unparalleled work ethic and leadership and is still a capable fourth-line center and an extremely effective penalty-killer. The Sharks wouldn't need him to play top six minutes or provide secondary scoring so the dramatic drop-off in his point totals over the past few years would not be a concern. If Drury were willing to take a cheap one-year deal for a chance at the Cup he could be an ideal fourth-line center for San Jose.
Scott Hannan is a veteran stay-at-home defenseman who provides physicality, grit, leadership and sound defensive play. He was a staple on the Sharks' blue-line for several years before signing a four-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche in 2007.
Now an unrestricted free agent once again, the aging Hannan would likely be willing to sign a cheap, short-term deal for a shot at the Stanley Cup. He would be an ideal fit on the Sharks' third pairing alongside youngster Jason Demers and would drastically improve San Jose's penalty kill. Hannan would also replace the physicality and veteran presence that Niclas Wallin provided last season.
Andrew Cogliano, a former first-round pick from the 2005 entry draft, has regressed since entering the league. Once heralded as a sure-fire second-line pivot by scouts and fans alike, he has become the target of blame and ridicule by many of the Oilers' faithful over the past two years. Cogliano's offensive game has yet to develop at the NHL level but he does possess world-class speed, a solid defensive game and strong penalty-killing abilities. The main knocks on him are that he is undersized, weighing in at 5'10" and 188 lbs, and that he is unwilling to play physical.
Regardless, he is more than capable of holding down a third-line role and, though he hasn't become the scorer many hoped he would become, he is still very young and managed to put up 35 points last year (11 goals and 24 assists) while playing for the worst team in the league. There is still plenty of time for him to put it all together and up his point totals, and even if he doesn't, Cogliano would provide the Sharks with exceptional speed and penalty-killing and probably wouldn't demand a significant return if a trade were to be made.
A former fan favorite and captain in San Jose, Owen Nolan is another veteran that would provide the Sharks with grit, leadership and penalty-killing, as well as some secondary scoring.
He last played in the NHL two years ago for the Minnesota Wild, where he posted 33 points (16 goals and 17 assists) in 73 games. Those numbers prove that he still has some gas left in the tank and would be more than able to play a key role in the bottom six and step into a second-line role in the event of an injury.
There are rumors that bridges have been burned between Nolan and the Sharks, making his return to San Jose highly unlikely, but Doug Wilson has shown this offseason that he will do whatever it takes to bring the Stanley Cup to Teal Town so it seems that nothing is out of the question at this point in time.