In this offseason, the San Jose Sharks lost only Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Kyle Wellwood from their top three forward lines and replaced them with Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus. They have enough young talent to replace the other role-players they lost.
Meanwhile, the Sharks lost No. 3 defenceman Ian White, No. 5 Niclas Wallin and No. 7 Kent Huskins. They upgraded all three players by getting Brent Burns, Colin White and Jim Vandermeer (not better than Huskins, but better fitting the Sharks needs).
The blueline is another place where the Sharks have young, developing talent. Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic (now the team's No. 3 behind Burns), Jason Demers and Justin Braun are born after 1984, and should only continue getting better.
Most observers now believe the Sharks were better than last season. The Hockey News gave them one of three A's handed out for the offseason.
The Eastern Conference's top seed the last two years (Washington Capitals) was the only team to receive a better offseason grade than San Jose. Have they now passed the Sharks?
This team is no better than the fourth-best in the league, and has a duty to use some of the $4 million in cap space. I have heard some Sharks fans suggest they not spend the money, but there are a couple of misconceptions surrounding why:
1. They can use it to help sign guys for next year. Except cap space from one season cannot carry forward to another season, and is merely lost. This is what teams who cannot afford to put the best possible team on ice do, not elite teams like the Sharks.
But can it be used as the front end of a contract extension? Sure, but it is not much of a bargaining chip to throw a couple extra million on this year's contract for Logan Couture. He will care much more about the money on the duration of the new contract than what is on the end of the old one.
2. They can use the cap space to sign someone at the trade deadline. True, but since three-fourths of the season will be over by then, the team would need to take on $16 million in contracts to need that room.
Unless the team needs more than two players at the level of Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, and Patrick Marleau, they cannot use all the space. A team needing that much should be a seller, not a buyer, at the deadline.
This is not to say they should not leave some room. If they can ensure $2 million remaining after dropping the player a free agent replaces on the ice from the payroll, the Sharks could get any one player made available or two to three role players.
Even general manager Doug Wilson publicly acknowledged the window to win a Stanley Cup is closing: despite having only four of 17 forwards and four of nine defencemen over 30, seven of those eight players are cornerstones of this team. And right now, the Sharks are not as good as the four aforementioned teams.
With the free agent addition of Colin White to the blueline, that has become one of the top five or six units in the league. However, the signings and trades over the last month have not brought a single player who will have much of an impact on the forward lines.
Right now the top two forward lines are good, but the checking lines project to be average. There are a nearly endless number of possibilities out there between trades and free agency, but here are 10 moves the team could realistically make to upgrade their forwards over the next two months until the 2011-12 season begins...