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San Jose Sharks Sign Andrew Murray: Projected Lines for 2011-12

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIJuly 19, 2011

San Jose Sharks Sign Andrew Murray: Projected Lines for 2011-12

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    Note: the first slide of this article is taken from a piece written for the Sharks page of Sports Haze Bay Area.

    The San Jose Sharks signed Andrew Murray to a one-year contract Tuesday worth $575,000 according to CapGeek.com. In 181 NHL games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the 29-year-old winger has 36 points.

    That this qualifies as news for this organization betrays how little activity there has been. But then there have been fewer than 20 signings around the league of players with more experience in the last 11 days since the Sharks re-signed Benn Ferriero and picked up Ben Guite.

    Teams are obviously biding their time with the remaining free agents. There could be different reasons for different teams, but after the Sharks snagged Antti Niemi from Chicago on the cheap when they decided not to pay what he was awarded in arbitration, it stands to reason teams are waiting to see how those hearings turn out.

    Imagine Shea Weber or Drew Doughty in teal. San Jose has the cap space to offer them significant contracts if their teams decide they cannot afford them.

    Okay, there is as much chance of a veteran dating Mila Kunis as one of these teams (say, budget-conscious Nashville) not paying for their star. But you have to have the cap space to make the move.

    San Jose has about $5 million left with plenty of minimum-contract talent to fill the one spot they are short of the standard 23 on its active roster. Thus, adding one marquee player or two good ones is not out of the question.

    There is no way a team that Wilson admitted is running out of time to earn the elusive Stanley Cup will ride huge cap space into the season. They need to make moves to fill holes, but there is no reason to do it now.

    Thus, it seems likely that rather than dip into the many unrestricted free agents available, general manager Doug Wilson is content to play the waiting game before making more offers.

    Arbitrations go right up near the opening of camp, and it will take time for all the players to find their new homes. Therefore, it is conceivable the Sharks could go into cap with their current roster, projecting the following lines...

Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski

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    Early projections put Joe Pavelski on this line with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton.

    This makes sense on four levels: It puts a shooter on a line with the best setup man in the league; matches Pavelski with a line he is familiar with on the power play; puts three centres on the line with the oft-tossed Thornton; and divides up speed that is already on this line through Marleau.

    That balance makes this one of the truly elite lines in the league. There are only six teams around the league with arguably better top lines: Washington, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago.

Ryane Clowe-Logan Couture-Martin Havlat

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    Logan Couture deserved the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year not only because he proved himself a fantastic scorer with 32 goals (second on the team), but because he was responsible in his own end.

    He lost only because he was perceived as not being a true rookie, with the maximum 25 games played plus 15 more in the playoffs. Jeff Skinner, as an 18-year-old true rookie, was a better story.

    But Couture may be an All-Star next season, and one of the reasons for his scoring success is linemate Ryane Clowe. Clowe not only has the size to battle for pucks, but vision and touch second only to Thornton among Sharks forwards.

    Clowe can do more than dish the puck, and, like Couture, is strong defensively. Add Martin Havlat and his superior speed, defence and scoring ability to this line and you have a one-two punch for lines as good as any outside of Detroit, Pittsburgh and Washington.

    In fact, they are stronger than any line on over half the teams in the league. They have incredible balance, with the one weakness being that this is the only line with just one centre.

McGinn-Handzus-Mitchell

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    This will be one of the best defensive lines in the league.

    Torrey Mitchell and Michal Handzus are solid-to-great penalty killers with speed and size, respectively. Jamie McGinn is a hard worker who will do the dirty work, be physical and remain responsible in his own end.

    Unfortunately, they project to scoring only about 30 goals between them. In fact, they might score even less given none of them can create and they will not have anyone drawing defensive attention away from them as they have in the past.

    This could well mean that Benn Ferriero, who has offensive skill, could find his way onto this line with a strong camp—probably in place of Mitchell or McGinn. But while Ferriero has not been a liability defensively, that would essentially trade offence for defence rather than make the line better.

    A strong defensive line that is weak offensively is a mediocre third line.

Depth Forwards

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    The fourth line would currently project as having youngsters Andrew Desjardins and Benn Ferriero as their core. Both have very limited experience but were promising enough to be used in the playoffs, where they were reasonably effective.

    The last spot is very open to speculation. Defenceman Jim Vandermeer has experience playing forward, and his physicality and lack of speed work well as a checking forward. This would allow the Sharks to play Justin Braun more on the blue line but still have a defensive presence for that unit on the penalty kill.

    Ben Guite and newest Shark Andrew Murray possess enough experience to be solid forwards in the rotation. Moreover, they make ideal 13th and 14th forwards because at their age, being scratched will not hamper their development.

    Frazer McLaren and Brad Mashinter provide the Sharks with enforcers to rotate in if there is a need. They will not lend much support in scoring, but are capable enough defensively to not be a liability on that end.

    CapGeek.com lists John McCarthy (41 games NHL experience) as signed for $525,000, making me think I had missed him being re-signed. However, this must be his qualifying offer because I found no news about his signing.

    Still, he is likely to be back in camp. Tommy Wingels has played in a few games and is also on the roster.

    That gives San Jose a fourth line that has some experience, scoring ability and passable defence. That is all one can ask or need from a line that plays about six minutes a night, and puts it in the top half of the league.

    However, the Sharks would have incredible depth, with four to six players to use for that final forward spot and to call up in the event of injuries. Since the bottom two lines are not dynamic and Handzus is capable of filling in among the top six, this means it will take two injuries to top-six forwards or four anywhere to hurt the lines significantly.

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