Entering the first day of free agency, the San Jose Sharks no longer had Kevin Wellwood, Scott Nichol, Ben Eager, Jamal Mayers, Ian White, Niclas Wallin or Kent Huskins under contract. All have spent most of their time as Sharks dressed for each game.
But no one lost was more than a role-player. On that day, they added centre Michal Handzus and defenceman Jim Vandermeer.
Then the free-agent signings dried up. Between then and August 2, they signed only players likely to fight for the last active forward spot with Vandermeer, who may rotate in as a fourth-line forward as well as when the team goes with seven defencemen.
The depth was needed because a few players from the Worcester Shuttle had also been lost. Still, they were losing all four of their bottom four forwards and sixth and seventh defencemen for a bunch of players that would not have been on the ice in the playoffs.
On August 3, the team signed Colin White to fill that third pair complement to Jason Demers. The two look to be in perfect balance—young and experienced, puck-mover and stay-at-home, right- and left-handed...
Usually when a third-line forward and a third-pair defenceman are considered big signings, you have not lost the number of free agents the Sharks have. But just because the Sharks are not active in free agency does not mean they have not been for the offseason.
How much impact will Sheppard make on the Sharks in 2011-12?
At least they are with one team: the Minnesota Wild. The teams appear to have taken advantage of a discount flight offer, because they just made their third trade in six weeks.
First the Sharks sent Devin Setoguchi along with top prospect Charlie Coyle to get All-Star defenceman Brent Burns. Then the Sharks traded Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat, not only better fitting their needs but freeing up $2.5 million in cap space.
Now they have sent a 2013 third-round pick for James Sheppard, the ninth pick in the 2006 draft. In 224 games, he has 11 goals, 49 points, 108 penalty minutes and a minus-28 rating. He was rated the 28th best pick in that draft, right ahead of new teammate Jamie McGinn.
Sheppard should make the fourth line and compete for the third. But he will provide minimal upgrade over Andrew Murray, Ben Guite or Vandermeer that he will replace on the ice. He only extends the depth of a unit that already had six players capable of filling in for injured forwards.
Of course, a third-round pick two years from now is not much of a price to pay for Sheppard. Unless the Sharks go on a decline the next two years and want that mid-round pick to rebuild, because that is the year the window closes.
It will be interesting to see if management stays active in the final two months before the season starts.