San Jose Sharks: Salary Juggling Necessary to Keep From Tanking

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IIJuly 13, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - JUNE 23:  General manager Doug Wilson of the San Jose Sharks talks on the telephone during the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena on June 23, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

You can bet Doug Wilson is on the phone a lot these days.

Why? According to HockeyBuzz, his San Jose Sharks currently have just under $1.35 million of cap space, and that counts only 17 skaters and one goalie.

The current cap space gives the Sharks the ability to complete their roster requirement by adding a skater and a goalie at or near the league minimum. However, there will not be enough room to have a single scratched player active in case of illness or an injury in pre-game skates.

Not a good position to be in. Remember, the team cannot simply call up minor leaguers to fill these spots, or those players' contracts count against the cap, too.

Worse yet, San Jose has tendered offers to Torrey Mitchell, Brad Staubitz, and Tomas Greiss, and they need to have enough room for those contracts should no one sign the players away.

Thus, players will likely need to be traded away in order to have a complete roster. While the Sharks could do what they did with Kyle McLaren last season—assign him to the minors to lift his salary from the cap. Had they simply cut him, they would have had two-thirds of his count against the cap.

McLaren had to be waived in order to be sent down because he did not have a two-way contract. Because he was so grossly overpaid, no one claimed him, as they would have been responsible to pay him that salary which would have counted against their cap.

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Players this year might be worth what they are paid, making it difficult to count on keeping them in the system. The good news is that makes a trade more likely.

The Sharks need to get something in return for anyone taken from their salary rolls since are in need of forwards. They have only eight forwards currently on the NHL roster.

Because all players on the team's top two lines are under contract, one might think San Jose will look only for checking-line forwards. However, the lack of a reliable goal scorer has cost San Jose in each the past four seasons in the playoffs:

  • In 2009, the Sharks had the seventh-best offence in the regular season (3.06 GSA) and finished 13th out of 16 postseason teams (1.67, a drop of over 45 percent).
  • In 2008, they came in with a less-than-stellar offence to begin with, ranked ahead of just 11 teams (2.63 GFA), or 36.67 percent of the league; in the playoffs, they ranked ahead of just five teams, or 31.25 percent (2.31 GFA, a drop of over 12 percent).
  • In 2007, the regular season ended with San Jose ranking sixth among the 30 teams in scoring (3.12 GFA), only to drop to ninth among 16 (2.27 GFA, a drop of over 27 percent).
  • In 2006, San Jose ended the season in the top quarter, ranked seventh (3.23 GFA), but fell to the bottom half, ranked tenth (2.64 GFA, a drop of over 18 percent).

So what would I do in Wilson's shoes? I would look for players who are well-paid or under-performing in the playoffs.

In my next article, I will look at players the Sharks may be able to part with.

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