San Jose Sharks 2011 Offseason Review
For good or for bad, the San Jose Sharks made some major moves this offseason.
For fans like me who enjoy the front office moves more than the ones on the ice, the entertainment value of this offseason has been high.
With these moves, General Manager Doug Wilson has created intense anticipation for the year to come.
How Will Brent Burns Fit In?
How will Brent Burns fit in? This question will be answered with on-ice chemistry.
One thing is for certain: a pairing of Burns and Boyle on the top Power Play line will improve an already formidable power play unit.
Burns on the first penalty killing line will be even more key, having vastly improve the Achilles heel of this team last year.
Whether Burns slots in in the top pairing with Dan Boyle or in another pairing at even strength, Head Coach Todd McLellan has options of mixing and matching his top two defensemen for years to come.
When Brent Burns was traded to the Sharks on the last year of his contract, he decided to commit his future to the team with a five year extension (cap hit of $5.76M per year) a month or so after the trade.
That makes Brent Burns the Sharks player with the longest contract at this point in time and a franchise player.
Analyst Barry Melrose has questioned giving up Devin Setoguchi in the trade for Brent Burns saying that the Sharks will live to regret it.
While that may be so, at this point in time Brent Burns is the player that better fits the Sharks and being under contract for the next six years alleviates many regrets The Sharks may have over letting go such a talented player in Setoguchi.
Martin Havlat Provides Speed and Salary Cap Relief
On the ice, Martin Havlat replaces the speed lost in trading Devin Setoguchi.
Off the ice, Martin Havlat replaces a bad contract in the one Dany Heatley had.
Martin Havlat's contract hit of $5M per year over the next four years is more team friendly than Dany Heatley's in many ways.
1) Dany Heatley made $7.5M per year which is fine if you are one of the top ten to twenty players in the game. Dany Heatley is not and with contracts like Patrick Marleau's, Joe Thornton's, and Dan Boyle's already on the books for multiple years, Heatley's $7.5M (the highest on the team) was necessary to move.
2) Martin Havlat's contract is free of any no-trade clause or no-movement clause. Dany Heatley had a fair amount of control over when and where he can be traded.
3) The combined effect of 1 and 2 meant the Sharks were right up against the cap with a hard contract to move while vastly overpaying an under-performing player.
With making the trade of Heatley for Havlat, thus saving $2.5M per year, Doug Wilson was able to allocate those funds towards the Brent Burns extension (BB makes only $3.55M this year).
How Martin Havlat performs with The Sharks will be seen. Having the added control of being able to trade him at a moment's notice to whoever wants him allows more flexibility.
Now The Sharks have more flexibility to bring in well paid veterans via trade or waiver wire during the year when new weaknesses surface in this new look team.
Penalty Killing and Defensive Corps Revamped
Veteran Center Michael Handzus was brought in from Los Angeles to provide third line center depth as well as join the first line of penalty killing forwards.
While this reporter would like to see at least one more defensive forward/penalty killing specialist signed for the front line, the back line of penalty killers, however, got real deep, real quick, with some very big bodies.
Starting with Brent Burns, who will man the blue line on the PK, Doug Wilson added bruising journeyman defenseman Jim Vandermeer. A couple weeks later he added former New Jersey Devils mainstay Colin White to punish anyone in front of the net.
Throw in Douglas Murray to the mix on the back line and you potentially have nearly 500 pounds of penalty killing force in front of the net on each of the two penalty killing defensive pairings.
That's if McLellan chooses to play a more passive box on the penalty kill. If he wants more speed out there on the PK to add more pressure, he has Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, or even Jason Demers, who is fit to have a breakout season.
All in all, Doug Wilson has built a defensive corps that is eight players deep before training camp even started. The penalty killing team has gotten meaner, grittier, and more powerful while training camp hopefuls like Mike Moore, who recently had three assists in a pre-season game, have a slim shot of making the roster.
Having eight defensemen on a 23-man roster is a stretch, let alone nine. This is the deepest as well as the most top-end talented defensive corps the Sharks has ever had in their history.
Trial and Error
There's a lot of changeover in the last two forward lines and a lot of competition to make the team.
This reporter isn't able to make much sense of it yet and will have to wait and see how the season unfolds.
Best guess is that head coach Todd McLellan is in a similar boat, albeit a more informed one.
Prediction: there will be a lot of changing in the third and fourth lines all year until Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan are able to bring in or call up just the right mix of players.
Since this team is so new in a lot of ways, expect the front office show to go on throughout this season since Doug Wilson now has the financial freedom and flexibility to make almost any move he wants.
For fans who enjoy the front office show, this will be a very exciting year!
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