NHL Trade Speculation: Top 5 San Jose Sharks Off-Limits This Offseason

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IIJuly 6, 2012

NHL Trade Speculation: Top 5 San Jose Sharks Off-Limits This Offseason

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    The NHL free-agent frenzy, as the league began calling the initial signing period in 2012, is dying down.

    It is a basic scientific principle that a void will be filled. Thus, all the conversation revolving around Zach Parise and Ryan Suter has to be replaced with something. Their signing with Minnesota opens the door for not only the media and fans but the league's general managers to turn their attention elsewhere.

    Tell me if you have heard this buzz before: Rick Nash to the San Jose Sharks.

    This story is at risk of becoming the NHL's version of the annual Brett Favre/Roger Clemens will-he/won't-he retire talk the NFL and MLB have gone through in recent years. What started as trade deadline buzz has lived on for almost five months now.

    Please make it stop.

    I am talking to you, Scott Howson. No one is going to pay you with a younger player who is a sure-fire star in exchange for a forward who has played four playoff games.

    There are several reasons to pursue an alternative to Nash, but perhaps most telling is this look inside the numbers that indicates the forward may be overrated. That is one of the reasons my first choice for a trade is Bobby Ryan.

    Nevertheless, Nash is slightly better right now, and thus the best forward available through free agency or a trade. The Sharks need to upgrade at forward and appear unwilling to use even second-level free agents.

    Hence the trade buzz continues. Opposing GMs simply must know that while literally everyone on the Sharks roster can be traded if the return is right (who couldn't be lost in exchange for Evgeni Malkin?), here are five players who are almost entirely off-limits, in no particular order...

Logan Couture

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    The most obvious example of a San Jose Sharks player that will not be involved in a trade is Logan Couture. Numerous outlets (including CSN Bay Area that broadcasts the Sharks) have reported him as the object of desire for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    There is a reason that a requirement for him in a trade is a non-starter. Couture might have been picked last for the All-Star Game, but he was picked. No one younger has a better resume, and he has already earned recognition as one of the top-40 skaters in the NHL.

    You simply do not trade elite talent under 25.

    Couture is a centre who can win you draws and play strong in both ends. He probably accomplishes more next season in teal than Nash would. No one is going to part with a player good enough to pry Couture away from San Jose.

Brad Stuart

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    Obviously, Brad Stuart is not on this list because he is an irreplaceable part. There are easily 100 players worth trading Stu for.

    This is not to diminish his abilities. He is easily a top-three defenceman because he can contribute on both sides of the ice. He scored six goals and 15 assists last season with the Red Wings, but also had 177 hits, 115 blocked shots and 22 takeaways.

    But there is a reason he agreed to sign with the San Jose Sharks—he wants to play at home. That is why the team got him for a mild discount, and the team is not about to ignore that and ship him off anyway.

Joe Thornton

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    As the only player on the San Jose Sharks to show up every game in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, hopefully all the "Joe Thornton's a choker" haters will disappear like so many on the internet do when they are wrong.

    Thornton is 33 years old, but hardly breaking down. His offensive numbers are not what they used to be, but that is because he has increased his attention on defending.

    Among the league leaders in takeaways, he has emerged as the leader and a two-way performer the Sharks wanted when they traded for him in November 2005. There are only a handful of players better—he was voted the No. 24 player in the NHL by his peers in a Hockey News poll.

    Since only 16 of those players are forwards, that means there are limited worthwhile options out there that will improve the team now. If the Sharks were looking to rebuild, shipping Joe off would make sense, but they are a team still apparently looking to win now.

Brent Burns

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    Brent Burns was the best player on the San Jose Sharks blue line during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. Over the last half of the season, he emerged into the player the Sharks envisioned when they traded for him last summer.

    He led the blue line in goals and takeaways while finishing second in assists and hits, showing his value on both ends. That is why the team has committed to him as the future of their unit. There are very few players they would trade this future away for.

    That being said, they are deeper on the blue line than in forwards or goalies. Burns is young enough to garner some attention. His cap figure is about equal to that of Bobby Ryan and within a role player of Rick Nash...those are the only two players being shopped he even might be traded for.

Joe Pavelski

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    Joe Pavelski is the same age as Rick Nash, and certainly not the same kind of dynamic player. So why should he be on a list of San Jose Sharks not open to be traded?

    Because he should have been a Selke Trophy finalist as the best defensive forward in the world. (Patrice Bergeron was the right choice for the winner).

    Pavelski led Sharks forwards in ice time, faceoff percentage and blocked shots while finishing second in takeaways. And he scored 30 goals to boot.

    San Jose may be tempted to make him part of an offer for Nash, who is a decent defender and would score more than Pavelski did on a line with Joe Thornton. But they need to resist it.

    Only one of them has the nickname The Big Pavelski. He earned it in games more important than Nash has ever played. Even in a trade for Nash straight up, the Sharks lose out because they get a lot more bang for their buck with the player they have now, and that makes a difference when there is a salary cap.