But a checking line analysis shows they are still mediocre at best in that area. That link describes why the team needs to spend some of its available cap room if they want to win now. Another describes the Sharks remaining options and why making one move does not affect the team's future.
The quantity of pieces within these options indicates a level of importance. But why is that one more player so crucial right now?
Because this team's window is closing. Fast.
General Manager Doug Wilson said as much this offseason. And his actions speak even louder than his words.
He traded away a young top-six forward and the top pick from each of the last two drafts for Brent Burns. He has traded away a first or second-round pick at the trade deadline in almost every year since the lockout in order to upgrade the team now, and that has left his cupboards bare.
The San Jose Sharks only have one player, Justin Braun, not projected to be dressed nightly this season who has a realistic chance of being in the top two lines or pairs on a playoff team in the NHL. But they have four forwards and two more on the blue line who are over 30.
That means they are likely to lose production and eventually need to let go of five more players than they have the prospects to replace.
Of course, only one of those players is over 32 and only one other is not under contract beyond next season. In other words, they will still be performing well for the Sharks next season and perhaps beyond.
The problem is that as their production slowly falls, their cost does not. But the Sharks should be able to compensate for that with the young talent that in the everyday lineup: Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Jason Demers, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Ryane Clowe will still be under 30 when the season ends and have already shown they can contribute to the team's success.
All but two (Burns until 2017 and Pavelski until 2014) of these players will have to be re-signed within two years. Only Couture and Demers are likely to get big raises next summer, but a whopping 11 forwards, four defensemen and two goalies with NHL experience will have contracts expire.
Thus next year's Sharks are bound to have less depth than this year's. The 2013-14 Sharks will face deeper cap issues and only two players are signed beyond that.
Over the rest of the week, I will examine in more detail the cap purgatory facing the Sharks in the near future. The point right now is that it sure would make racing to rebuild a lot easier if they won the Stanley Cup this year.
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