During the last two months of last season, the Sharks had one of hockey's best third lines. This was primarily due to Joe Pavelski, a two-way center good enough to play on many team's top lines.
Pavelski wins a ton of draws, scores big goals, holds on to the puck and most importantly, creates scoring chances for his linemates. This allowed a struggling Torrey Mitchell and a previously NHL-exiled Kyle Wellwood to have tremendous second-halfs.
The Sharks had Pavelski on the third line because they had seven excellent forwards. After trading Devin Setoguchi for a defenseman, the Sharks reduced their crop of star forwards to six, and in doing so, effectively removed Pavelski from their third line. With Pavelski on line one or two, the Sharks would retain one of the NHL's elite top-six units, but lose their ultra-valuable third scoring line.
This is where Torrey Mitchell comes in. By moving Mitchell to the top line, where he'd play alongside Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, the Sharks could then role out a second line of Martin Havlat, Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe. Pavelski would return to center the third line, which would push current third line center Michal Handzus to the fourth.
The Sharks down the middle: Thornton, Couture, Pavelski, Handzus. All four would be among the game's best for the line they're on. What are the practical benefits of this?
For one, the third line immediately becomes better. Yes, the Sharks still would need to sign a winger, preferably someone with solid speed and hands. J.P. Dumont and Kyle Wellwood still look like the best options. The other wing would then be filled by Jamie McGinn or Benn Ferriero, probably McGinn to give the line some size while retaining its speed. But whoever ends up here, Pavelski will make a better player, something Handzus wouldn't do.
On the fourth line, however, Handzus would be invaluable. He would solve the Sharks' otherwise pressing need to go out and add a veteran to anchor the fourth line, and he would instantly make it one of hockey's elite bottom units.
Handzus is an offensive juggernaut compared to other fourth line centers, but still has the smart, defensive, physical style of play that is required to play on the bottom line. His experience would greatly benefit his linemates, be them Benn Ferriero, Jamie McGinn, Andrew Desjardins or Frazer McLaren.